Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

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How many fireplaces can be saved?

Underneath the deteriorating 1970s décor of a West Village townhouse were multiple grand 19th Century rooms, said Alan Barlis, an architect. “America has a bulldozer culture,” he said, and he has a passion for sustainability.

The house was once owned Robert De Niro and had 14 fireplaces. Only six of those actually worked when Mr. Barlis bought it 10 years ago for a customer.

The building’s facade is a landmark, but its interior can be altered as the owner wishes. Mr. Barlis began a detailed restoration with an eye towards ecology. They went from 14 fireplaces to two — one is in the basement kitchen and the other, with an original Brocatello marble mantelpiece in the rear parlor, is the star of the show.

The fireplace was reconstructed with care because the mantelpiece is too fragile to move. The old chimney shaft was nested with a four-inch supply tube to bring fresh outdoor air from the roof down (supplying the oxygen required for combustion and outdoor air that does not mix with the room air). Can heavy, dirty firewood — typically chopped miles away — be considered more sustainable than, say, a gas log?

“Well, wood is not a fossil fuel,” said Jessie Goldvarg, an associate at Barlis Wedlick.

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