The Fractal Group LLC is a full-service architecture and interior design firm located in New York, NY, with a philosophy that focuses on intricate detailing, innovative material selection and weaving the traditional style of landmarked buildings all within a contemporary design language. Ulises Liceaga, principal of the firm, believes that a designer should also take the role of a general contractor in order to oversee every aspect of the continual process, from concept design to final completion, which allows freedom to execute a clear vision.

Over five years, Liceaga transformed a historic brick building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side into a contemporary 5,000-square-foot residence for his family, which features a range of porcelain tile from Ceramica Sant’Agostino’s Pietre D’Italia collection.

Completed in 2017, the four-story home boasts generously proportioned rooms in which form follows function, sculptural lighting and contemporary wall installations. “The structure’s rear wall was extended 17 1/2 feet to increase the floor area ratio, outdoor space was rezoned to allow for additional interior space and two additional levels were constructed on top of the existing structure,” Liceaga said. “Excavation in the cellar expanded the foundation by six feet to create spaces for a fitness center and an energy-efficient Altherma heating and cooling unit.”

An elevator connects all of the floors, though each level is also accessible via the foyer’s spiral staircase and a stairway originating in the living room. “The four-story home delicately balances adult spaces and kid-friendly quarters,” the designer explained. “The foyer serves as a conduit between the two — the spiral staircase rises to meet a formal entertaining area comprising the living and dining rooms, and on the ground level, a metal door gives way to a study hall or a ‘decompression space.’ It is connected to a kitchen, the site of daily family dinners, while celebratory gatherings occur upstairs. Sleeping quarters and private baths also occupy the upper levels.”

Liceaga opted for a large-format Italian porcelain tile throughout the home, a material not typically seen in historic townhouses. Chosen for its resilience and durability, the 24- x 24-inch tiles from Ceramica Sant’Agostino’s Pietre D’Italia collection in “Avorio Cer” conceal a radiant heating system and mimic the appearance of stone, adding warmth without rusticity.

“The Italian tile also has many different faces and variation, making the pattern more realistic and natural, and thus, an excellent replica of stone,” Liceaga added.

The formal entertaining space comprises a living room and dining area with a butler’s pantry and an adjacent outdoor terrace. “Its modern aesthetic is punctuated by a hidden elevator shaft painted in a vivid orange plaster with a wall installation by Mexican artist, Emilio Garcia,” Liceaga said. “Color permeates the third and fourth floors, where the children’s bedrooms and playroom reside. Huichol paintings and custom felted wall coverings in a graphic pattern infuse each space with personality, a vibrancy that finds its foil in the neutral-toned baths between the bedrooms.

“The fourth floor master suite is covered in black vinyl typically used for automotive interiors for a cocoon-like feel that is heightened upon entering the master bath,” he went on to say. “A sleek workspace is incorporated into the master suite with a speaker freed of its mesh covering as an unexpected art piece. The lifeless backyard was transformed into a Zen garden defined by climbing ivy, flowering bushes, evergreen shrubs and potted plants. The outdoor area connects with the formal dining room terrace to allow for greater flow and easy entertaining. The garden is also a place for reflection and comfort, whether it’s reading the morning paper or enjoying afternoon tea.”

Private residence

New York, NY

Architect: The Fractal Group LLC, New York, NY

Tile Supplier: Ceramica Sant’Agostino, Sant’Agostino, Italy (Pietre D’Italia collection
in “Avorio Cer”)