The Family Buy: an Upper West Side Townhouse Where ‘Together Time’ Is Optional

A very modern two-story addition brings lots of light and white Vermont marble to a historic townhouse.

A very modern two-story addition brings lots of light and white Vermont marble to a historic townhouse.

Practical concerns like room layout and resale value, school district and street noise are all given due consideration in every house hunt, but the core experience is really an exercise in imagining the future, with would-be homes appealing in accordance with how closely they hew to one’s preferred vision of self.

An up-close view of the double-height addition.

An up-close view of the double-height addition.

And so it is difficult to imagine any family not falling in love with the townhouse at 121 W. 81st Street, which offers six bedrooms and 5.5 baths spread out over 6,500 square feet and most importantly, the strong suggestion that living en famille need not sap one’s highly sophisticated sense of style.

The turn-of-the-century townhouse, listed with Norah Burden of Brown Harris Stevens, succeeds where so many other townhouse renovations have failed, blending old and new in a way that repeatedly brings that cliché modifier—seamless—to mind. Rather than riding roughshod over period details, the current owner added an airy two-story addition in the back that floods the graceful public receiving rooms on the first and second floors with light from double-height windows, while leaving their intricately carved cherry woodwork intact.

The home enjoys the comforts of many different eras, including four fireplaces (one a recent addition of rare black Italian travertine), heated floors of white Vermont marble, a kitchen with a Viking stove and a double set of sinks and dishwashers. Pocket doors abound and graceful Juliet balconies overlook the back garden, while a terrace off the master bedroom is wired for sound and reinforced for a hot tub (not included). Also not included in the $10.975 million list price: the home’s many works of eye-catching modern art.

The exterior: very much old-fashioned.

The exterior: very much old-fashioned.

As for blending the needs of parents and children, the entire fourth floor is given over to the master suite, which includes a palatial master bath (currently outfitted very appealingly with a settee in front of the fireplace), connected to the master bedroom by a walk-through closet that would make any clotheshorse happy. The top floor hosts four smaller bedrooms, each set sharing a full bath (it’s important for the kids to learn sharing!), as well as a second washer and dryer so that you—or rather, the maid—won’t have to schlep all the way to the basement to wash the linens.

And should the townhouse appeal, but not the family, what dream could be lovelier in this space-starved city than keeping all 6,500 square feet for yourself?

Also old-fashioned in the best of ways: a master bath with clawfoot tub, fireplace and settee.

Also old-fashioned in the best of ways: a master bath with clawfoot tub, fireplace and settee.

The Family Buy: an Upper West Side Townhouse Where ‘Together Time’ Is Optional