Luxury Fireplaces Are Keeping New Yorkers Warm This Winter

How Many Fireplaces Could 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, once owned by Robert De Niro, had 14 fireplaces, though only six actually worked by they time Mr. Barlis got his hands on it a decade ago on behalf of a client.

The facade of the building has official landmark status, but the interiors can be changed as an owner sees fit. Mr. Barlis embarked on detailed restoration, with an eye toward 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.

Its mantelpiece too fragile to move, the fireplace was remade gingerly. A four-inch supply pipe got nested within the old chimney shaft, to duct fresh outdoor air down from the roof (supplying the oxygen needed for combustion, outdoor air that never mixes 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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