Greek Revival


Location Greenwich Village

Price $387,000 in 1994

Square feet 3,000 1845 late–Greek Revival townhouse

Occupant Andrew Jones [bond rater and painter]

This is so grand. No one else wanted to buy it—1994 was a down period in the market. This was in horrendous condition, half-occupied with old rent-control tenants paying $125, $215. This had been cut up into apartments many times. In 1927 there were eight kitchenettes, eight bathrooms. This is four stories plus a cellar. Look, Egyptian black-marble fireplaces . . .

You have Greek ears. See the little flanges around the tops of the windows, how they stick out? It’s a very refined period of Greek revival—1845 was the very end. The 1830s was when a lot of furniture became very sleek. They call it flat style. The couch is late 1830s.

Gold stars on black cloth. The fabric is more Napoleonic.

Your paintings are carefully placed on the walls. Your gallery dealer, Elliot Smith, right next door, discussed your “Stoop Series,” oils of Village brownstones, as having been “made when the sun casts a shadow . . . a bridge between reality and abstraction.” Shadows are the past, the moment after the exact present. Elliot was sitting in an invisible-acrylic Philippe Starck chair. He also mentioned how early medieval art is about absolute belief. After Napoleon II fell, Louis XVI, no, Louis XVIII, came to power. With Restoration they simplified everything. Why? When things get elaborate, eventually they go the other way.

Life is moody. I started getting interested in furniture at seven. My relatives were active in the 1960s restoration of Savannah. A lot of my family were lawyers, merchants up and down the East Coast. My mother’s mother was a furniture restorer of painted Hitchcock chairs. She wrote one of the first books on stenciled furniture. Stencils are cut with tiny little scissors. It’s often about portraying a form by suggesting part of it, not actually painting the entire form, putting gold powder against sticky varnish. We have an old legal tradition in the family. I went to Yale Law, practiced for some firms in New York, tax law. I was living in the East Village. You have to understand the true economics of a transaction, not what people say about the transaction. [ We go on a tour.] This is when I was painting in the Mayan style. I began painting when I was nine. There was a big discovery of ancient Mayan temples by John Lloyd Stevens, right when this house was being built.

Your time! You started mouthing words but no sound came out. It must be the haunting. our sleigh bed is in the center of the room. I love being in the middle. Look at the trees outside. I don’t need a country house. This other room is my reading and music room. I tend to sit in these side chairs.

You have very good posture. These chairs were owned by Don Alonzo Cushman, the big developer of Chelsea. This table is Duncan Phyfe. Here is my painting studio. It’s good to check your perspective. An incorrect perspective can create unwan
ted tension.

Tell me about money. Townhouses here are now between $3 million to $5 million. I’m paying almost $20,000 a year in taxes. Some people are paying a trifle. If you value fairness, you’re not ready for home ownership. The city taxes you for renovation. Too many caps are on assessed property. It’s the only way they make money. People renovating in Harlem are facing enormous tax burdens. The city’s been actively doing this since 2000. I pay $20,000, higher than other townhouses. I did a lot of renovation just before 2000 so I was one of the ones who got nailed. I’ve probably replaced 30 of the joists. They’d rotted down to the core. It’s easy to replace joists. I’ve seen houses that are leaning. That’s when it gets into engineering problems.