ISSUE 1  |  A New Start

Architect Visit: A 15-Foot-Wide Garden for a West Village Townhouse

November 04, 2016 2:00 AM

BY Michelle Slatalla

What do you do with a tiny backyard that’s only 15 feet wide–and half as long? In downtown Manhattan, a two-story living wall creates an illusion of space (and views of greenery) for a narrow West Village townhouse.

A gut renovation by Brooklyn-based architects Lubrano Ciavarra gave the homeowners the opportunity to dig out the backyard and cover the back wall with two tiers of planters, creating a walk-out garden with seating on the ground floor (where the new kitchen is situated). Brooklyn-based garden designer Marni Majorelle and her team at Alive Structures designed and installed the garden.

Photography by Chris Cooper courtesy of Lubrano Ciavarra.

West-Village-Townhouse-Living-Wall--curb-appeal-Garden-GardenistaAbove: To the street, the narrow brick house presents a traditional facade.

hero-west-village-townhouse-garden-gardenistaAbove: Looking down on the excavated garden pit from a top floor. Three wood planters with grasses and hanging vines create a vertical garden.


Above: The ground floor kitchen opens to the excavated garden; full-story glass doors replaced the back wall of the house on two levels.


Above: The first-floor parlor looks out onto the top half of the living wall.


Above: The full-height windows completely replace the back wall of the house, to let in sunlight and, when open, to blur the boundaries between indoors and out.


Above: Period details, including a marble mantel and elaborate moldings, are original to the house.
West-Village-townhouse-skylight-roof-garden-gardenistaAbove: In the top-floor master bathroom, a skylight lets in sunlight.

West-Village-Townhouse-Living-Wall-Garden-GardenistaAbove: On the narrow roof, a garden has walk-on skylights.

Designing a tiny townhouse garden? For more inspiration, see: