2022 RDAA | Architectural Interiors | York Street Passive Townhouse | Mowery Marsh Architects

Older urban townhouses are string bean–like spaces that challenge even the most astute designers, and more so when they are a mere 16 feet wide. Comprising four stories including the basement, this 1880s building went from dreary to dramatic with its light-well insertions, botanical wallpapers, and enigmatic black core. “They made it feel pretty incredible,” a judge said. 

While skylighting a central stairwell is a classic way to bring light to the bottom of a tall house, Jennifer Marsh, AIA, and Brian Marsh, AIA, went further by “skinnying up the hallways” on the second and third floor. Detaching them from the core created a sun-drenched slot lit by both the skylight and a small outdoor courtyard on the top floor. “The core usually houses the baths, laundry, and other functions, so it was kind of fun to highlight that,” Jennifer says. “We created a diagram with this black core, pulling it apart a bit so you can start feeling those forms.”

Indeed, the black functional areas, tightly tailored in stained white oak, recede against the other all-white surfaces. On the first floor they conceal a mudroom, powder room, and pantry, and on the second floor a bath shared by the two daughters. Bold botanical wallpaper in the dining room and powder room adds film-set glamour to the slightly noir scene. “The client loves pattern and color, and we found those moments for it,” Jennifer says.

Rigorous air sealing and “squeezing mechanical systems into the smallest possible spaces,” Brian says, led to a quiet house that meets Passive House standards. “The fourth dimension is thermal comfort,” Jennifer adds, “which is not always found in a four-story house.”


Architectural Interiors

Mowery Marsh Architects

York Street Passive Townhouse

Jersey City, New Jersey

Project Credits

Architect: Jennifer Marsh, AIA, and Brian Marsh, AIA, Mowery Marsh Architects, Hoboken, New Jersey

Builder: Jason Endres, Endres Home Builders, Nutley, New Jersey

Interior designer: Elaine Santos, Elaine Santos Design, New York, New York

Building scientist: Ed May and John Mitchell, bldgtyp, Brooklyn, New York

Structural engineer: Melissa O’Leary, Proper & O’Leary Engineering, Troy,
New York

Project size: 3,780 square feet

Site size: 0.04 acre

Construction cost: $450 per square foot

Photography: Haris Kenjar Photography

Key Products

Cabinetry hardware: Omnia

Cladding: Boral

Cooktop/Ovens: Samsung

Countertops/backsplash: Daltile

Dishwasher/Refrigerator/freezer: Bosch

Entry doors: Ikon

Fireplace: Absolut black granite hearth

Flooring: White oak, marble by Ivy Hill and Krista Watterworth Kiss

Refrigerator/freezer: Bosch

Skylights: LAMILUX

Vanities: Ikea, Semihandmade

Vent hood: Thermador

Wallpapers: Cole & Son, Mulberry

Washer/dryer: Whirlpool