This $22M Upper East Side townhouse renovation is just so basic

Renovations of historic properties are, of course, completely necessary sometimes. No one likes living with faulty plumbing or door knobs that fall off or 1970s decorations. But when those renovations go to far, they threaten to turn a special property into one that looks like just another boxy white mansion.

Case in point, this townhouse at 46 East 82nd Street on the Upper East Side. The British developer Penny Bradley purchased the property in July 2014 for $8.8 million from famed plastic surgeon Robert Tornambe. In little more than a year, she totally renovated it, stripping out a lot of the original details and adding new features like an elevator, a schmancy new kitchen designed by Smallbone of Devizes and a wholly new ground floor (it was originally a doctor’s office). Apparently, those changes are enough to justify a 255 percent increase in price for the house, which is on the market for $22.5 million.

While the home looks updated and shiny and modern, we mourn the loss of the charming imperfections that made it appealing to begin with. Moldings were torn out, colored walls were painted white and the cozy aesthetic of this townhouse has given way to a bland one. While there’s nothing objectionable about the renovated house, there’s also nothing interesting about it. Like most new construction projects, it appeals to the lowest common denominator of good taste. One that is clean, unstuffy, sophisticated and, most of all, totally boring.

See the photos below for more details on the changes Bradley made to the house and let us know in the comments what you think of the renovations.

The elegant façade was re-clad in limestone (with a door modeled after the one at 10 Downing Street).

The original building (left) and the updated exterior.

The original first floor was a doctor’s office, which was totally ripped out for this foyer, with the kitchen in the back leading out to the backyard. The main hall also has the elevator and a powder room. This decision does make sense for converting the office into a residential space — though the choices don’t seem very original.


The original kitchen (left) was on the second floor, while the new kitchen is in the back of the first floor. Personally, we prefer the warm tones and homey feel of the original to the somewhat sterile vibe of the new one.


The beautiful chair moldings in the living room were stripped out and the room was painted white (of course).

Even worse is what they did to the formal dining room on the second floor, stripping out the wood paneling to make the room into a blank box (yes there’s a Buddha on the wall. No, it’s not enough to give the room any character).


A lot of the beautiful detailing of the staircases was removed.


The new master bathroom (right) takes the space of what used to be the home’s gym. While we agree that the original bathroom certainly needed an upgrade, is it really necessary to have one that is as massive as this? In fact, this main bathroom is so far away from the bedroom that Bradley added a half bathroom in between the two.



  • R Tornambe

    This is Robert Tornambe, the previous owner, and thank you Isabel, for all the lovely compliments. We loved that old girl, as my wife Valerie referred to our home, but alas she truly needed a facelift! Penny gave us a tour today, (closure for us!), and while I understand and appreciate your comments, I do see what Penny was trying to accomplish, and she succeeded. It is now a bigger home, (I do miss walking downstairs to work!), and her changes make it feel and look wider and larger than her 18 foot width. There is now a proper elegant entrance with mud room opening to a grand space. The reality of our modern NYC, is people who can afford to live in 20+ million dollar brownstones are not looking for old world charm, they desire shiny new and modern spaces with white walls to show off their expensive art work. Penny Bradley is just giving the customer what they are looking for…too bad!

    • Elissa Russo

      Thank you Dr. Tornambe for updating me on the transformation of your townhouse.
      Having been your designer, it has pleased me to know over the years, how successfully the design of your office and living space supported both your practice and your family.
      Preserving the building’s character and old world charm was our goal and I do agree it is unfortunate that the trend today is moving away from that.
      May the next residents enjoy living there as much as you did.
      Elissa Russo
      Elissa Russo Designs, inc.

  • Isabel Schwab

    Hi Robert, Elissa,

    Thanks for your comments! I know this kind of renovation is fairly standard, but it’s also a shame that it needed to happen in order to make the place more sellable. I love the character the old house had!

    We might be writing a longer piece about this trend; reach out to me if you’re interested in talking Thanks! Isabel