Like the Corner Bistro or Bleecker Street, Liv Tyler is synonymous with West Village living. A resident of one of Manhattan’s most charming neighborhoods for the past two decades, the actress has been photographed infinite times, with and without her children, on her local streets—walking her dog, pushing a stroller, or running into her corner store to pick up a pantry staple. “I just love how I don’t even have to leave my block,” says Tyler. “Mary’s Fish Camp is my favorite restaurant. I grew up in Maine so I get all Maine food there. Lobster knuckles. And then going to my deli is my favorite thing. I literally go across the street and will talk to the guys there for, like, 45 minutes and get all my favorite treats.”
Although she recently purchased a townhouse in London (she is married to a Brit, sports agent Dave Gardner), she will always consider her lovingly restored, four-story townhouse on West 11th Street her home. “I come all the time for work,” says Tyler. “I’ve been here five times in the past few months. I just come and stay and plan little plans where I invite everyone that I love to come and be with me here. Everything I’ve ever owned is here. All my clothes, all my collections, and all the little things.”
It’s Tyler’s devotion to the little things, those most special character-defining details, that turned her property’s renovation into an absolute labor of love. Built-in the late 1800s, the brownstone had already been through a handful of incarnations by the time Tyler purchased the building in 2001. “I had been told that three spinster sisters had lived there, which I loved,” says Tyler. “Then a politician owned it. Each floor was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, and everything historic had been taken out of it. When I found it, it was really, really, really run down. You really needed to have a vision to see what it would be—and I could just see it.”
After meeting with a handful of architects, Tyler decided to work with Ben Petreath, who had been with Fairfax and Sammons at the time. “I picked them because they did hand drawings as opposed to all the computer-generated ones,” she recalls.
The two certainly had their work cut out for them. Says Tyler, “It was weird because even though I was so young, I really wanted to bring the house back to its original glory. I wanted to really honor the house and put back all the beautiful details. Literally, every window is new, every door is new. We gutted it down to the absolute brick. You would be in the basement looking up to the attic. The only thing that we kept was the stairs, all the beautiful carvings, and the banisters, but each step, each thread, and riser had to be remade.”
Given the mandate, there was no room to cut corners. “We found these beautiful wood floors from a barn upstate, and got those in,” says Tyler. “And even things like the windows, I wanted them to look like the windows used to look, so we used Polish glass from this one factory where they would blow them into single panes. When you look up at them, the light just dances in them differently.”
She and her team would spend hours at another West Village mainstay, the French eatery Tartine, poring over issues of World of Interiors, finding inspiration for each and every facet of the renovation. While the design had held her interest, Tyler was more than happy to join the crew and break a sweat as well. “There was scaffolding inside, all over the rooms, and I would get up and help them, they’d make these amazing carvings and you’d put the plaster up and slide it across to make the perfect shape,” says Tyler. “I love spending the afternoon with a plumber, an electrician, or a painter and learning about how things are done and what really stands the test of time. Because you can do a renovation that looks great, but if it’s crappy it just won’t last very long.” check townhomes for rent