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Redesigning Manhattan, Lilian H Weinreich; New York’s ‘go to’ residential architect


Redesigning Manhattan, Lilian H Weinreich; New York’s ‘go to’ residential architect


Living and working in the city for over twenty years, Lilian H. Weinreich has built up a solid reputation as New York’s ‘go to’ architect for all things residential, however difficult. Working within the dense 28 square miles of Manhattan, high-end residential schemes with mid-range budgets have become her forte especially within loft renovations, combination and duplex apartments in pre and post-war cooperative and condominium buildings. These ‘affordable’ budgets are of course indicative of the times, yet Lilian has developed clever design techniques to maximize on minimal spaces within tight budgets and often even tighter timescales. 


Intricate knowledge and two decades of navigating through the planning system means that I find solutions to difficult design problems typical to New York CityLilian H Weinreich

The approval process for alteration work in NYC can be at times a difficult and arduous task. The difficulties lie in the arcane Building Management Rules and the Reviewing Architects hired by the same Managing Agents. The Reviewing Architect and the Board can override NYC Building Department code compliant permits and often submit nine page boiler-plate letters which further delay the decision making. This is often an expensive and time consuming process for clients. 

To date, Lilian has won all of her appeal cases with the Boards. A good example is the expectation in the luxury residential buildings market for larger master bathrooms. Enlarged bathrooms greatly enhance the resale value of apartments in older buildings vying for the top end residential market. Often cited in the Building Alteration Agreement is the arcane rule for not permitting a “wet over dry” alteration and thus kitchen and bathroom expansions in buildings with this rule are hampered from enlargements. 

Lilian has found that the proposed bathroom enlargements often include the floor-print of adjacent closets – and if properly, sound and water proofed do not affect the function of the floor below. Lilian has to date been successful in challenging this rule by her presentations to the various Building Boards. In at least six cases “breaking the rules” was permitted, including the Hayden and Hampshire House. 

Currently, Lilian is completing an alternation on Park Avenue and is currently working on duplex renovations in Noho and 54th Street, a loft in Chelsea as well as on going work with the Knickerbocker Club, one of the oldest men’s clubs in New York City.


 Theresa’s Gramercy Park Studio Renovation (under construction) – This 450 square-foot studio apartment on the 13th floor with unobstructed north-east city views and even daylight was designed as an urban home-office for a dynamic young head-hunter as a first apartment to house an impressive collection of museum quality modern art purchased almost exclusively through the Larry Becker Galleries, Philadelphia with an equally impressive collection of designer shoes. This project is a tightly designed minimal studio apartment with predominately sustainable materials and energy efficient light fixtures – where less is definitely more.

There were numerous physical restraints posed by the interior alteration of this small studio. These included how best create an open plan while maintaining separation of the programmatic function of entry, kitchen, live/work/sleep space, bathroom and storage closets. How best maximize the low eight foot ceilings of the living area and even lower dropped ceilings at the entry/kitchen/bathroom which house extensive overhead pipes. How best deal with the predominant conduit pipe housing the entire building’s mechanical venting system running diagonally in an off-set position through the center of the kitchen area. Finally, how best hide the unsightly mechanical at the window wall including the thru-the-wall HVAC unit, the steam radiator and related piping and valves.

While the solution was multifold, the planning remained straightforward. The apartment exemplifies a balance between modern simplicity and technical dexterity. The subtle floating ceiling plane at the kitchen area with it’s recessed slot fluorescent strips and hovering soft lit cove edges helped create a feeling of greater spatial height. All closet doors were full-height doors. The existing conduit at the kitchen was partitioned in such a way that this floating wall element created an easy solution to separating the kitchen area from the main living area – while maintaining the flow and openness. The singular sleek upholstered sofa-bed on tubular legs with numerous parts that tilt and recline at various angles allow for flexibility in sleeping, viewing the artwork and watching TV.


The white on white vertical planes and subdued color palette created a simple and clean backdrop to the vibrancy of the art work. The matte white wall paint color was specified by Art Dealer, Larry Becker – a paint color and finish as the appropriate backdrop for the art collection. In contract, a glossy highly reflective white lacquer paint finish was applied to the kitchen cabinets.

Strand Bamboo, a sustainable material, was used predominately throughout this apartment. The floating honey colored striated bamboo flooring planks leveled the existing wavy concrete slab to perfection. The flooring was treated with a natural matt wax finish free of formaldehyde to allow visibility of the grain. The sculptured perimeter wall enclosure clad in bamboo – both houses and hides out of sight the apartment’s mechanical equipment. Tightly spaced bamboo slats, perfectly aligned wrap continuously around the front and top face of the window enclosure to allow the required air flow circulation around the existing mechanical equipment. The fully accessible enclosure also houses drawers and storage space for home office files, as well as an open book shelf. Full height bamboo wall and ceiling panels were installed at the front entry. They were used to cover the unattractive standard building metal fire exit door and door frame. Full height bamboo wall panels were repeated at the living room workstation with cantilevered desk and shelves above.

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Further, the energy efficiency studio space meets the ECC NYS 2010 Code requirement where more than 50% of the light fixtures have high efficacy type lamps – seen in the recessed slotted fluorescent strip fixtures, the fluorescent jamb operated closet lights, the minimal bathroom wall strip over the mirror and the LED cove lights. The recessed halogen fixtures with double aiming eye sockets light the art walls in the living area are on dimmer switches. Dimming is used to extend the lamp life of halogen sources while it can be used to both create atmosphere effects and to save energy. While allowing deep interior light penetration, the solar window shade provides protection against light and heat gain from the north-east facing windows.

A transcendent, elemental purity throughout the studio shapes the interplay of light, form, and material within a minimal envelope – this interior renovation project illustrates a new level of refinement in minimalist spatial resolution.


Japanese Wabi-Sabi Aesthetics Embodies Western Duplex in Manhattan’s Urban Jungle  – Transforming the 36th and 37th floors of an existing post-war, residential tower in the premier upper west side of Manhattan, into a stunning 1,800 sf duplex renovation was yet, another amazing project entrusted to Lilian H. Weinreich Architects. Designed for a retired couple with a love of classical music and ballet, this design provides an urban retreat for their frequent visits to NY. The brief was to completely remodel the existing duplex apartment into a bright, open space drawing on the Japanese aesthetic Wabi-Sabi.

Lilian H. Weinreich Architects worked with the Co-Owner’s wife in her role as Interior Designer to include the founding principles: wabi (transient/stark beauty), sabi (beauty of natural patina, aging), and yūgen (profound grace, subtlety), as a conceptual theme throughout the project.

A subdued neutral palette of rich, subtle hues provides a clean, sophisticated backdrop to the delicate Noh mask carved from a single block of wood using traditional techniques by the client’s daughter, welcoming each visitor to the space. The same mirror backed glass provides a ghostlike aura to the translucent glass cabinet over the dry bar.

The space divides into public/private. The lower level is one large, open utilitarian space for dining/entertainment. Part of the clients brief was to incorporate the mesmerizing views, so Lilian H. Weinreich Architects added sliding, glazed Shoji screens capturing the entire floor width view and bringing a sense of the outside, in. The private bedroom “quarters” on the upper level, feature rhythmic forms flowing around the central core wall forming a contextual relationship with the adjacent Art Deco building and lake
beyond, seen from the window view.

One of the main challenges for Lilian H. Weinreich Architects was to create a feeling of openness, with 8 foot low ceiling height restrictions. This was addressed through the clever use of dropped ceiling planes, floated with lit infinity edges, delivering a taller/ grander feel.

Weinreich4To address sustainability despite poor prior quality and structural limitations, Lilian H. Weinreich Architects was able to completely remodel a contemporary version of the existing building salvaging 30% of the original materials. Hot dipped galvanized steel from 100% recyclable materials was used to refinish and refresh the classic Poulsen light fixtures and the existing steel stair components were reclaimed and cleaned. Wood was locally lumbered and materials and appliances selected for their low impact/low energy credentials. Sound insulation matts made of 100% recycled rubber were installed under the entire flooring throughout.

Inside, Lilian H. Weinreich Architects has created a unified space that is both tranquil and energizing, extending the life of a tired, unloved post-war tower in to a beautiful tranquil duplex fit for use in the 21st century.

For more information about Lilian H. Weinreich Architects, please visit www.weinreich-architects.com


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