A Modernized Pre-War Fifth Avenue Apartment with Vibrant Interiors

Details

Bronze Modern Powder Room with Custom Vanity

In the powder room, a custom vanity designed by Willey Design LLC features a diamond-cut counter surface, glistening wallpaper-fronted drawers, and hardware applied in a constellation pattern. Twig wall lights from Vaughan Designs add a natural element to the space. The bronze bust was purchased at Flair Home Collection.

Modern Master Bedroom with Vintage Mirror

A Sorraia four-poster bed purchased at Holly Hunt anchors the bedroom; the vintage mirror above is from Lilli and Loo. The walls are high-impact, thanks to Phillip Jeffries Rivets wallpaper; bedding from Frette mimics its geometric pattern. Flanking the bed are vintage bamboo side tables purchased at Mecox Gardens. For bedtime reading, Campaign sconces from Restoration Hardware add light.

Modern Black Study with Chandelier

A Danish-style chair provides a spot for reading and relaxing. Custom designed by Willey Design LLC, the chair is upholstered in a pale gray velvet by Lee Jofa and a ribbed wool by Pollack. A stainless- steel Vortex table, from Global Views in New York, reflects light from the chandelier above. The solid green painting is by Nina Beier.

Ernest Hemingway Modern Black Study

In the study, a custom desk was designed by Willey Design LLC and fabricated by Silkwood Ltd. A custom rug from Beauvais Carpets is infused with blocks of white, mimicking the geometric sculpture on the desk by Dan Schneiger. The Oly Pipa Bowl chandelier from Mecox Gardens is paralleled by Harland Miller’s 61 With a Bullet from the homeowner’s personal collection.

Modern Brown Media Room with Graphic Art

The media room offers comfortable seating options, including a B&B Italia sofa and Paley chairs in Kravet fabric custom designed by Willey Design LLC. Restoration Hardware’s Blackhawk coffee table mirrors a modernist chrome-and-Lucite chandelier by Gaetano Scolari purchased at John Salibello. The custom rug is from Beauvais Carpets.

Modern Cream Breakfast Nook Banquette

A custom banquette and table by Willey Design LLC join Restoration Hardware Buckle chairs in the breakfast nook; Circa Lighting’s Goodman lamp hangs above. The art- work, Untitled Series by Richard D. Crawford, was purchased from the artist.

Modern Kitchen with Pastel Blue Cabinetry

The updated kitchen includes Restoration Hardware’s Vintage Toledo barstools that provide seating for snacks or chats with the cook. The room’s coffered ceiling was wallpapered to resemble the texture of 1940s French eggshell lacquer. The contemporary sofa was custom designed by Willey Design LLC, and the swing-arm library lamp above is from Nicholas Antiques.

Modern Media Room with Custom Bookcase

The apartment’s original dining room was converted to a family-friendly media room. The custom bookcase—a mix of lacquered ice blue cabinets and warm wood veneer insets—features floating shelving with integrated uplights for dramatic effect. The bookcase was fabricated by Silkwood Ltd. in Bellmore, New York.

Modern Dining Room with Bookshelf

A teak Guerin dining table and Dumas chairs, both by Robert Lighton, grace the dining room and are centered by a vintage Vistosi glass chandelier.

Modern Striped Entryway with Console

The Andre console from Robert Lighton sits in the home’s 30-foot-long entry and is paired with a Mongolian fur stool by Lillian August. The geometric plaster lamp is from Flair Home Collection in New York. Melanie Schiff’s Last Lagoon hangs above the console.

Modern Living Room with Fireplace

For the living room, Willey chose a palette of gray, black, pale blue, ivory, and pops of cranberry.

Turquoise Modern Living Room with Red Sofa

In the living room, draperies in Kravet’s Sumptuous turquoise fabric draw the eye toward the room’s view of the Metropolitan Museum. The daybed and Bridgewater-style sofa were both custom designed by Willey Design LLC, and the Karl Springer cocktail table was purchased at John Salibello. An abstract piece by artist Jorge Pardo hangs above the mantel.

Turquoise Modern Living Room with Red Accents

In the living room, draperies in Kravet’s Sumptuous turquoise fabric draw the eye toward the room’s view of the Metropolitan Museum. The daybed and Bridgewater-style sofa were both custom designed by Willey Design LLC, and the Karl Springer cocktail table was purchased at John Salibello. An abstract piece by artist Jorge Pardo hangs above the mantel.

A bicoastal New York couple, having just renovated their apartment on the Upper East Side, were happily settling in. Their home, conveniently situated near their children’s school, was now perfectly designed to their taste. As fate would have it, it was just at that moment when an upstairs neighbor approached them with an offer to buy their apartment. They certainly weren’t eager to depart their newly refreshed environs, but the offer was simply too enticing to refuse. So they made the sale and bought a larger apartment several blocks away, in a stately pre-war limestone building on Fifth Avenue. “Only in New York,” says John Willey, the couple’s interior designer, who is accustomed to the unpredictable events that unfold in the world of white-hot New York real estate.

The couple’s new apartment was spacious but stodgy. “It was quite heavy, with lots of chocolate browns and tans,” Willey says. “It had big swag draperies that closed off the best views, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art across the street.” The goal, explains Willey, was “to lighten it up and give it a more playful and youthful character. They love color and a fun, jazzy quality.” The couple wanted to use the furnishings from their previous apartment, a mix of custom-designed pieces and a treasure of vintage furniture from Karl Springer, André Arbus and Edward Wormley. But given that they were starting over, they decided to switch up the color scheme.

For the new apartment, Willey chose a palette of gray, black, pale blue, ivory, and pops of cranberry. “I had the mahogany furniture ebonized,” he says. “The upholstery—which was in creamy ivories, aubergine and turquoise—we covered in silver, pale blue and charcoal. I didn’t want to use any prints, because I wanted to showcase the sculptural elements of the chairs and the tables without adding a lot of busyness to them. We bleached all of the floors to a beautiful Scandinavian gray to get a dreamy, in-the-clouds effect that makes the apartment feel calm and serene.”

With the help of builder Ted Thirlby and his team, Willey reworked the floor plan slightly to better suit the family’s needs. The home had plenty of closets but, as is typical in a century-old building, they were tiny. “The previous design was a little awkward, in terms of the way the closets and the hallway were laid out,” Thirlby says. “So John cleaned it up to make it flow a little better, and we rebuilt the closets.”

The team also cleaned up the architecture to bring in the light from Fifth Avenue and to give the apartment a more youthful energy. The design throughout was intended to best showcase the couple’s ever- growing art collection, which includes pieces by George Condo, Louise Bourgeois and Harland Miller.

Perhaps the most labor-intensive project was taking the apartment’s somewhat dreary entry hall and transforming it into a striking gallery featuring broad stripes of limestone in smoke and champagne, with matching faux paint that continues the striped effect up the walls and across the ceiling. “It was an out-there idea, but I had a brave client who let me go with it,” Willey says. “The goal was to create sort of an abstracted Chinese puzzle box for a ‘wow’ effect when you walk into the apartment.”

Adds Thirlby, “It was a technical challenge, because the walls had to be perfectly flat and plumb, so we had to apply plaster over the existing walls to get them just right. If they were a little off, those stripes would show the inequities in the walls.”

In the end, the entry gallery—and the entire home—took on a visually distinctive yet serene vibe. “It’s all cool colors,” Willey says. “When you walk in, it’s very calm and soothing, which is the entire point of an apartment in New York City. You want to have a dip in an oasis after coming in from stressors of the crazy city.”

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