With spectacular views of Central Park, the location alone elevated a Manhattan apartment set in a 37-story building from the 1930s—with its Dorothy Draper-designed lobby intact—to exceptional status. The 2,000-square-foot home away from home for an executive and his family called for an urban, contemporary look with a bit of a masculine edge. “Our design sensibilities were very compatible,” says Alabama-based interior designer Tammy Connor, who first met her clients when she worked on their cottage in South Carolina followed by a more formal turn-of-the-century East Coast residence. “The goal was for it to be approachable and livable, casual enough to feel really comfortable, yet with quality craftsmanship and attention to detail.”
Described by Connor as “architecturally simplistic” upon purchase, the couple’s new city digs were devoid of such features as crown molding and millwork. So, the designer collaborated with architect James Carter to rectify the situation. According to Carter, the existing sheetrock bookcases in the living room lacked personality, proper proportions and detail. “We worked together to create bookcases with more interest that contributed to the refined feel of the new décor,” says the architect, who also created the room’s paneling. “I suggested something along the lines of French Moderne for the paneling to give the background depth and elegance without interfering with the cleaner lines of the furniture.”
After reconfiguring spaces and updating the kitchen and baths, the real game changer was opening a wall and a pair of narrow portals that previously closed off the living room from the spacious foyer. “The key was to enhance the views of the park as you enter the apartment,” says builder Vincent DiSalvo, who also raised the foyer ceiling by taking down and relocating existing ductwork, making it wider and flatter, and dropping a soffit around the perimeter. “The project took about six months, largely because of the logistics of working in a high-rise.”
For the kitchen, the team made the most of its small footprint, removing a gas range on the diagonal and squaring up the wall. A dark navy lacquer on the cabinets—a sophisticated upgrade from the previous maple—informed the different shades of blue used throughout on the dining room ceiling, living room draperies, accent pillows, glass accessories and even book bindings. “This created a flow from one space to another,” says Connor.
Because the owners are both very tailored, they wanted furnishings and finishes that were timeless, mindful of that masculine edge and a little chic, without being over the top. “There are no florals on the upholstery,” Connor says about the fabrics that include wool-sateen, mohair and linen- velvet. “There’s a strength to the color palette, and eclectic materials such as onyx, bronze, glass and leather provide perfect accents.” Although the homeowners love antiques, Connor says the pieces selected are less about style and more about clean lines and their ability to meld with the modern artwork. “An antique can be contemporary if it’s quiet and has refined lines and proportions,” she adds.
Modern art and a mix of materials and styles create a yin-yang tension in the foyer, where the designer teamed a Louis Philippe-style chest and vintage Murano glass lamps alongside Picasso drawings and an antique French settee, all grounded with an overscale-grid hide rug. Centered between the living room’s new painted bookcases and a bold Abstract Expressionist painting,
a custom-built charcoal shagreen cabinet includes a pop-up mechanism for a flat-screen TV. Skirted Madeline Stuart sofas and a John Saladino club chair, ottoman and bench provide seating with a modern vibe around an onyx coffee table.
Just opposite, dining room cabinetry balances the focal wall of the living room with similar detailing. A raised ceiling in the apartment beneath resulted in a step-up to the dining space, where curved railings were added to mitigate the platform effect and make the room more intimate. A skirted banquette in taupe velvet adds flexibility to the seating. “You can seat seven comfortably and you can push the table back to create more space,” says the designer.
The master bedroom taps into the park’s winter palette with a charcoal silk-and-grass-cloth wallcovering as a textural envelope complemented with gold-thread linen-hemp draperies. Like the rest of the interiors, the master suite is not overly decorated. “It’s not all about pomp and circumstance or show,” says Connor. “Everything is rooted in traditional but simplified and layered with clean lines.” And though the view is what beckons, it is that rich balance of mixing materials and styles that really creates a place to call home.