[Wall Street Journal] Light, Layout, History Pluses

Featuring Sara Gelbard and Paul Kolbusz' townhouse at 280 West 4th Street, West Village, Manhattan.



Working at home can have challenges, but people in the arts sometimes can draw work inspiration from what is also their living space. Here, the owners of three listed homes—two in Manhattan and one in upstate New York—describe how the light, layout and history of their properties helped their creative projects.

Actor and director Matthew Modine, who has appeared in films such as "Full Metal Jacket" and "The Dark Knight Rises," purchased a garden duplex apartment in Chelsea with his wife Caridad in 2008 for $1.7 million.

They were the first owners of the approximately 1,700-square-foot apartment in Loft 25, a building a few blocks from the High Line.

Mr. Modine says he wrote several short films in the space and worked on a screenplay he is currently producing in Los Angeles. The home's 17-foot ceilings "allow your mind to open up to creative thoughts," says Mr. Modine, and the two-level space allowed him to "wander" while working on his screenplays and films.

"There are lots of spaces to escape to," he says. The home, with open-plan kitchen, is listed with Halstead Property for $2.175 million.

Photographer Brittany Beiersdorf used her studio space in the West Village to display her photographs and work on an accessory and clothing line called "Descendants of the Dragon." The light-filled studio is part of a triplex with living accommodations and access to a roof deck.

The triplex is one of four units in a townhouse purchased by Ms. Beiersdorf's father, Lloyd Ross, in 2005 for slightly under $7 million. Mr. Ross is the founder and retired chief executive of a discount retail company. The space was renovated over the course of two years, with some original details, such as moldings, being retained.

The home was occupied by painter Charles Webster Hawthorne from 1921 to 1930, according to records from the National Academy of Design. A painting by Mr. Hawthorne, who also was an art teacher. hangs in a living room in the home.

For Ms. Beiersdorf, who has since moved to Virginia, the home's history made it "an honor to use the studio." Her father calls it "an absolutely ideal, wonderful place for artists," citing the amount of space provided by the studio triplex and its exposure to light.

The brick townhouse is listed with Corcoran Group for $10.5 million.

The upstate towns of Beacon and Cold Spring are situated on the banks of the Hudson River and set against the mountains. They have attracted a host of artists who work and exhibit in the area, and the art gallery Dia:Beacon is a popular destination for day visitors to the area.

In 1994, Maryann Syrek and her husband Richard visited a 10-acre property on a hill in Cold Spring. After having a picnic and a bottle of wine, they promptly fell asleep, a sign for them that they "felt at home with the land." They purchased the property for $195,000.

Ms. Syrek is an interior designer, painter and sketcher as well as a representative for Eastern European artists.

She designed the home that the couple built on the land and shares a workspace with Mr. Syrek, a data analyst, on the second floor. A layer of rubber protects the floor from paint spills and a deck provides views of a tree-filled landscape and the Hudson River.

"When Maryann designed it, it was fun in a way," says Mr. Syrek of the home. "The way it looked was Maryann, the way it worked was me…Every piece of this house is a part of us."

The 3,800-square-foot home with four bedrooms was listed by with Houlihan Lawrence for $1.825 million and recently entered into contract.

"The minute I stepped on to this property, I knew this was it," says Mr. Syrek. "You can feel something that works."