Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

DOMINIQUE CAMACHO is passionate about the old architecture of the East Village. She holds sustainability workshops, supports preservation as a member of the East Village Community Coalition and, for much of the past 15 years, has gazed enviously at a former synagogue on East Seventh Street.

“I was captivated by the history and grandeur of the facade,” said Ms. Camacho, 40, an entrepreneur who operated a T-shirt boutique on Avenue A before opening Sustainable NYC, an eco-friendly store, last year. “Sometimes I’d pause, walk up the synagogue steps and touch the door.”

Built in 1908, the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn — which means Great House of Study of the People of Hungary — features a handsome limestone facade and a double set of pilasters supporting a pediment. After falling into disrepair, it was converted by a developer in the 1980s into five private residences.

So when the top floor of the converted synagogue came on the market in 2006, she and her partner, Gary Hirschkron, 51, president of AXA Partners, a life insurance company based in Farmington, Conn., jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, they were too late — the apartment was already in contract.

A bit crestfallen, Mr. Hirschkron looked sporadically for other places within a two-block radius of Tompkins Square Park, but never found anything half as exciting. Then about a year later, while casually surfing the Web over breakfast, he saw that the apartment was back on the market. The couple sprang into action and immediately put down a bid. They ended up buying the 1,600-square-foot apartment for $1.5 million in 2007.

Despite decades of neglect and renovations, the spiritual history of the space was still palpable. In the double-height living room, where the prayer sanctuary was originally situated, daylight streams through the large arched windows that bathed the ark and congregation in light.

Still, many of the rooms had been oddly configured by the condominium developer, including a diagonal party wall that created awkward, unusable corners. On the suggestion of their real estate broker, the couple hired Manifold Architecture Studio, a young firm in Brooklyn founded by Philipp and Kit von Dalwig.

Known for conceptual designs and art installations, the architects brought a playful, even racy sensibility to the project — turning the once-somber sanctuary into a modern triplex with an exhibitionist streak. Given Ms. Camacho’s passion for eco-friendly design, the renovation had to be green, too.

The architects began by ripping out the clunky wood staircase that leads to a mezzanine, and replacing it with an airy, space-efficient one that almost disappears in the loft-like living room. “It was not doing any favors to the space,” said Mr. von Dalwig, who replaced the wood balusters with glass panels to let in more light.

The new stairs also function as clever storage. Tucked under the risers — concealed behind a sleek wall of white panels made of nontoxic MDF sprayed with paint low in volatile organic compounds — is a climate-controlled cooler for Mr. Hirschkron’s extensive wine collection, and customized shelves for a high-end stereo. The minimalist panels also conceal a small powder room, covered in a dark aubergine, eco-friendly paint.

Ms. Camacho was the de facto environmental consultant, researching products and finishes. “I became so interested in green materials during the process, that I became LEED certified,” she said, referring to the professional accreditation offered by the Green Building Certification Institute.

The mezzanine, where the previous owner had put the bathroom, was turned into a library with built-in shelves and little else. A walk-in closet is neatly tucked behind the books.

The master bath and the bedroom were placed on the third level, under the synagogue’s pediment roof. The architects tore down the existing wall that divided the dark bedroom from the rooftop terrace, and replaced it with a gabled glass-and-steel wall — turning the cramped attic-like space into a light-filled penthouse suite.

The bath was tucked farther back, behind the spartan bedroom and another wall made entirely of glass. Manufactured by InDetail, a Queens-based company that specializes in custom enclosures, the glass wall is fritted for privacy near the toilet, but is otherwise clear.

Until pull-down shades were recently installed, neighbors in the tenement walkups and condominiums across East Seventh Street were afforded unobstructed glimpses of the couple’s king-size platform bed, egg-shaped bathtub and clear-glass shower. The blinds might be optional this summer, as the stands of black bamboo that ring the cedar-lined terrace reach full growth, blocking out any Peeping Toms.

Not that Ms. Camacho has been shy. “I wanted to soak in the tub and look out at the view,” she said. “Originally, I thought about putting the tub on the terrace. Placing it inside was a compromise.”