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Beautiful before-and-after images show just how far this property has come, from a building that was half-vacant for dozens of years (complete with a faded ‘Checks Cashed’ sign over the lower storefront) to a trip-worthy townhouse tricked out with a moving facade panel – part of an ingenious light-and-air strategy and 3D urban optical illusion.

First and most fascinating: a fold-up, garage door of sorts lifts up and slides back into the space – what look like ordinary rectangular windows are actually mobile camouflage on an entirely retractable wall.

When closed, it looks a lot like any other house on the block – but when open, these trick windows slide up to the ceiling to create an amazing effect for passers by and a unique window to the outside world for residents within.

When the wall is raised, a low, ultra-clear (essentially invisible) glass railing prevents people from simply stepping outside to a one-story drop onto the street or sidewalk below.

In the back, a more simple but parallel strategy was employed: an off-the-shelf garage door solution (with clear panels to allow light in and views out) creates easy access to a back patio, itself decked out in astroturf-style carpet rather than real grass (for easy maintenance).

Keeping the best of both old and new, local brownstone was retained on much of the front wall facing outside while modern elements were added and clean lines redefine the remodeled spaces from within. Contemporary systems and surfaces were introduced to the cleared-out interior of this century-and-a-half old structure, while prominent patterns (like the stone-cut decor overlaying the first level) were drawn from regional sources to reflect the traditional character of the original building. (Photos ?by David Sundberg/Esto &?Bill Peterson, via NYMag)