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Purity Begins at Home

Steel, stone, and glass meet greenery in Richard Tyler’s ultraminimal house.

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When fashion designer Richard Tyler and his wife, Lisa Trafficante, bought this brick-fronted West Village townhouse in 2000, it was a change, to say the least. Their former base had been a 37-room, turn-of-the-century Gramercy Park mansion. This, clearly, was not. The façade was downtown Romanesque, and the interiors, tasteful though they were, evoked the nineties; the spaces were a little too tailored, the rooms too sharply defined. But bolts of fabric aren’t the only thing Tyler likes to cut up and reconfigure.

Tyler, a master tailor and avid horticulturist, adjusted the spaces in much the same way he does the grounds of his California homes, with patience and clear vision. He raised the ceiling in the great room and cut out walls on the second floor to give the house more volume. “He treated it like a landscape,” says Trafficante. “You have these vast areas that are almost like gardens.”

The result incorporates the elements in a way that’s atypical for inclement East Coast weather. Sliding doors and a retractable roof beckon the outdoors; water flows through a reflecting pool, its glass-brick bottom diffusing light to the salon below; radiant heat warms the oak and stone floors. It feels like a greenhouse for all sorts of cultivation: plants, animals, a fashion line, family.

Outsiders are drawn to it, too. If the gates are left ajar, pedestrians wander in, presuming it’s a gallery. “I say, ‘Oh, sorry, it’s my house. Would you like a glass of water or something?’ ” Tyler says with a laugh. “It’s sort of funny.”

Tyler says he’s always had a five-year rule about switching homes, but he loves this pied-à-terre so much they’ve kept it for going on seven years. “We lived in many other places in New York and never experienced that kind of serenity,” says Trafficante.



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