On the surface, says architect Stephan Jaklitsch, the renovation request for this Tribeca apartment he designed was straightforward. “The previous owner had combined two units, but it had an extremely awkward flow,” he says. “The new homeowners wanted to separate the children’s wing from the master suite and make the passage from the front door to the main living spaces as graceful as possible.”
But the underlying concept of those ideas counters the child-focused perspective of many family homes, where most spaces and furnishings cater to a child’s abilities and reach. That wasn’t the desire for these homeowners, however, a real estate investor and developer and his wife who had two toddlers (3 and 5 years old) and a baby on the way. “We wanted the entire apartment to be a balance between high-level aesthetics and practicality,” the husband says. “It was important that it be sophisticated.”
The apartment building had formerly been two separate structures, and though this unit did not straddle them, its various renovations over time had resulted in “different materials doing different things,” says builder JT Thomas. “In one portion, there were immovable reinforced steel beams, while other parts still had wood-beam construction. Some areas had concrete pads we didn’t want to take out. Other areas had the original factory floor, with two levels of other flooring on top.”
As a result, evening the flooring required different approaches. For instance, in the master suite, Thomas says, “we were able to gain 5 inches by going down to the original factory floor and wood-joist system.” In the nearby master bathroom, custom Bardiglio marble vanities designed by Jaklitsch and his team–designers Julia Blanchard and Lauren Larson, architectural project supervisor Marina Renjifo and architect Gerrell Wilson–appear massive and monolithic, but they are actually made of stone veneer, weighing less than expected and eliminating the need for extra reinforcement in the floors.
Architecturally, Jaklitsch says, the “boldest move” in the second-floor apartment was to uniformly treat the windows in the loft-like main space, which houses the kitchen, living room and dining room. Here, the clients and designers wanted to update the frames, which lacked architectural character, and engage the outside cityscape, “but there is a careful balance between being too open to the street and feeling sheltered,” Jaklitsch says. So the team painted the frames charcoal gray and dressed them in Roman shades with a lively print, creating a comfortable barrier between inside and outside.
Anchoring this space is the kitchen, where the team replaced multicolored mosaic backsplashes with more sophisticated marble tile and injected three tones of gray: dark on the island, light on the upper cabinetry and almost black on the ceiling. This space was important to the couple, who love to entertain; the wife is a former chef and event planner, while the husband was “very specific about details such as the counter space and height, prep areas and the size of the oven,” the wife says. A party-hosting convenience, the kitchen opens to the living room and the dining room, where chairs are covered in a mottled fabric that will hide stains from younger diners, Jaklitsch says. Likewise, the team outfitted the children’s wing, where the kids spend most of their indoor time, with a more economical design and furniture pieces that are easily replaceable.
Jaklitsch emphasizes, though, that kid-friendliness in the project “was not an overriding concern.” The main living spaces exude an uncluttered urban-chic sense, a personalized look Jaklitsch drew upon from his past experiences designing the husband’s bachelor pad and then the couple’s first apartment. The result is a sophisticated assemblage of the couple’s existing furnishings with new finds. This can be seen in the living room, which includes pieces like a vintage sofa, contemporary lounge chairs, a reissued midcentury daybed and custom commissions, like the rug and a black Hex pedestal supporting a Manolo Valdes bust.
In the end, the team’s work satisfied the young family’s grown-up sensibility. “The layout addresses all the various uses: a family apartment with entertaining space, privacy for us parents and children’s bedrooms clustered together, with foyers and thick doorways so the kids can make noise and not bother anyone,” says the husband. “We can all find our own breathing room when we need it.”