When you buy a piece of history, you don’t want to modernize it too much.

There is a point at which renovation becomes distasteful. While this might be a non-issue for the tech averse, most of us want to live in the present, even if we’re surrounded by the past. Finding a balance can be tricky. Such was the goal for the owner of this 1800’s Upper East Side relic.

Originally built as a fire patrol house in 1879, the property was sold to the American Alpine Club and used as its headquarters – a separate brick carriage house served as a stable for the horses. The property’s 14-foot high ceilings made it a perfect fit for an art gallery, and when art dealer Alan Stone purchased the property in the 1990’s, he transformed it into exactly that. When Stone’s estate put the property on the market, its current owners saw their dream home.

Turning it from minimal art gallery to a lived in home, however, was not without its challenges. The 3 floor, 5,625 square foot brownstone was gut renovated to include a gym, wine cellar, outdoor terrace, and a basement connection to the converted brick stable.

The process was sometimes deeply painful, but generally a very cool experience,” the owner recalled.

Among the challenges was outfitting the property with powerful, yet unobtrusive technology throughout. “I asked why we couldn’t just have light switches, and everyone looked at me like I had 13 heads.” Wireless keypads were chosen instead, to accommodate carefully calibrated lighting scenes throughout the home.

High on the wish list was a home theater room where the family could cozy up and watch sports. “We didn’t want it to be too in-your-face.” When not in use, they wanted the components to look like pieces of art. Speakers from Bowers & Wilkins were chosen not only for their audiophile-level performance, but for their beautiful finish and at-home fit among the rest of the art in the room. The library needed similar treatment for music, and utilized components from McIntosh Labs (including a traditional turntable) to deliver optimal sound while adding to the ambiance visually.

Ultimately we selected Control4 as the automation platform. All components were rack mounted and tucked away in the closet, leaving only the controllers in site.

“We went with Cloud9 Smart because they didn’t make us feel like Luddites… They were very enthusiastic about the whole thing, which made the process fun and collaborative. Fernando clearly cares about all of the technology, and how it works… I generally find technology very daunting… I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use everything.” 

One thing’s for sure… This space has come a long way since life as a fire house.