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Second Generation
House & Garden, February 2006

When a design executive and his family bought the Manhattan house that architect Edward Durell Stone renovated for his own family in 1956, they updated it by looking into the building’s past.

When a Manhattan couple with two rambunctious boys moved into an Upper East Side town house, they wanted to preserve and restore everything they could of the 1890s building in a landmark district: dark, elaborately carved mantelpieces; curving banisters worn smooth by time; and the lacy façade of cast concrete grillage, added in 1956 by architect Edward Durell Stone when he bought the place.

It was that juxtaposition of sensibilities that made the project “on the one hand more complicated and on the other hand easier,” says Philip Galanes, the designer, whom the couple knew through mutual friends. “It was a Victorian house with a transformative layer applied to it in the fifties.” That transformative layer is what persuaded the couple to buy the property, which stands out (literally, as Stone extended the façade five feet) from others on the block. The couple—he’s a design executive, she’s in finance—understood the significance of the house, which has sparked controversy for almost 50 years. The husband was excited to find pieces that Stone had designed, such as the panels for dropped and cutout-patterned ceilings (stored in the basement by the previous owners) and chain-mail hangings.

“Disparate elements,” the designer says, “created permission to go into a range of periods. The context was already laid for a mix.” The clients agreed, and hired architect Hicks Stone, who had grown up in the house, to renovate and update his father’s work. The crumbling façade had been removed in the 1980s, but the Landmarks Commission required its restoration, so it was in good shape. Discarded elements came up from the basement. As work went on, the clients edited their art collection, using pieces they loved to anchor the design of the family house. The result is a boisterous centenarian seen through a prism of Manhattan sophistication of a kind peculiar to movies like Auntie Mame and The World of Henry Orient, a world of timeless repartee, dry martinis, and outrageous good fun.


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