Morris Adjmi Architects

The Schumacher

61,000 square feet
7 stories, 20 units
New York, New York

A deferential conversion of a former printing house into a condominium building highlights the original structure’s architectural features to imbue the new homes with warmth and a sense of history.

Tucked away on a quiet corner of Bleecker Street in the NoHo East Historic District is a surprisingly large brick structure that was built in 1885 for the Schumacher & Ettlinger printing company. After decades of neglect, the Romanesque remnant of the neighborhood’s industrial past has been revitalized to highlight the original building’s unique architectural features.

Restoring the Schumacher involved scraping away the several indelicate renovations to reveal marble windowsills, beautiful brick detailing, and an ornate cast-iron storefront. What couldn’t be repaired was rebuilt, including several parapets and a missing pediment that was documented in a 1904 photograph.

The reconstructed pediment conceals two new rooftop penthouses, both of which are connected to the building’s history. The first incorporates an existing photography studio whose 16-foot-high ceilings and long horizontal windows lend the space a surprisingly contemporary quality. The second penthouse, partially enclosed by the pediment, is a new addition inspired by the old photo studio.

MA’s design team referenced several pediment drawings by Edward E. Raht, the Schumacher’s original architect, to develop an approximate reconstruction of his pediment for the Schumacher.

Inside, the masonry building’s original brick and terra-cotta vaulted ceilings were restored carefully, but not too carefully—their imperfections bestow character and charm that can only be earned with age.

These architectural artifacts drive the interior design of the building’s two- to four-bedroom apartments: mechanical systems are concealed within exterior walls to keep the ceiling open and unobstructed; the cabinetry and finishes are simple but refined to contrast with the rough-hewn brick; and the new wood floors are wire-brushed and oil-rubbed, giving them an aged appearance that echoes the nineteenth-century vaults above.

With a focus on contemporary craftsmanship, the interventions foster a new appreciation for the Schumacher’s traditional masonry construction while injecting the historic warehouse with a new vitality.

The thick masonry exterior walls were made even thicker to conceal the building systems, allowing the ceilings to remain unobstructed. This depth, which is characteristic of old masonry buildings, is most apparent in the window bays where mechanical units and dropdown shades are hidden behind a blackened metal enclosure.

The Schumacher’s ground-floor lounge and library look out onto a landscaped courtyard, excavated to bring light and air into the building’s lower two floors.