S M A Stephen Moser Architects

Tafel House —

Tafel House
Scarsdale, NY

The renovation and restoration of this mid-century modern house respects the integrity of the original design by Edgar Tafel, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, while opening up the existing spaces to make them work for a young family from New York City. SMA’s redesign also lightens the interior palette, without losing the patina of time, and enhances living areas and bedrooms with built-in cabinetry and additional closets. The wood-brick-and-glass house, which was built in 1951, was saved from the wrecking ball in 2018. Among the strengths of Tafel’s design are the house’s sweeping horizontal lines and the surprisingly functional split-level layout, but the interior spaces suffered from being cramped, dark and tired.

To lighten the palette of the house, dark-stained wood floors were stripped bare and given a natural finish; the pale golden hues of Douglas fir were used for cabinetry and doors. The living room, with its dramatic Roman brick fireplace and cathedral ceiling, was opened to the dining room, and updated with new recessed and cove lighting. The primary bedroom suite was reconfigured for more privacy, the ceiling of the bathroom raised to improve spaciousness. Outside, the strong horizontal lines were emphasized by replacing the old asphalt shingles with a dark gray, wide-format porcelain tile. The entrance steps were reconfigured with wide fan-shaped bluestone treads and reclaimed brick risers to align with the coursing of the adjacent brick planter.

Year Completed

1951 (Tafel), 2019 (SMA)

Project Size

3,300 sf

SMA Team

Stephen Moser, principal
Helene Lee, project designer
Ryan Griffin, project manager

Anthony Chan, Kiril Bejoulev, Georgine Botha


Livingston Builders


Michael Biondo
Columbia University Avery Library,
The Edgar A. Tafel Archive