The iconic sights from a glamorous Fifth Avenue apartment are right out of Woody Allen’s Manhattan. By day, the living room and master bedroom overlook Central Park and the gray geometric collage of surrounding buildings. By night, the scene is aglow with lightscapes from as far away as the George Washington Bridge. “It is a glittery city,” says Michael Halpern, who, with Amie Weitzman, created the apartment’s shimmering new renovation. “The use of metallics, vintage glass lighting fixtures and a palette of grays and beiges reflect the great views that surround the apartment.”
That view—along with the feeling of bygone glamour—captivated the homeowners when they were hunting for a larger city adobe. The wife is a women’s wear buyer for a luxury department store; her husband, a senior managing director in a private equity firm. In 2010, they found the apartment in a coveted pre-war building, this one dating to the 1920s.
The wife loved the fact that the same family had owned the residence for 42 years, because she and her husband were looking for a home where they could create memories of their own with their two young daughters. But the place had not been renovated for at least five decades, and the apartment’s many small rooms and tiny kitchen harked back to an age of live-in help. Moldings that were all the rage in the Roaring Twenties seemed overly ornate.
To reflect a more modern way of living, the husband called in a general contractor who had worked on the couple’s previous apartment, Giovanni Onelli, to do a gut renovation. Onelli then worked with Brooklyn-based architect Jonathan B. Held to create an open layout that better served the family’s daily needs. They expanded the kitchen, created a family room and turned the dining room into a den. A new dining area was carved out of the 27-by-14-foot living room. Surprises were uncovered when the walls came down—such as the dropped ceilings in three of the four bedrooms.
“By removing them, we gained about nine inches, which is a lot of height,” Onelli says. Another pleasant surprise was the discovery of hidden coffered ceilings in the living room and den.
Architect Ann Margit Macklin was brought in to make the doors, cabinetry and trim more in sync with the streamlined interiors. “We tried to go for more clean lines while keeping things functional,” Macklin says. To that end, she solved the perennial challenge of New York apartments—what to do with the radiators—by hiding them in built-in shelving or desks.
As their focus shifted to the interior design, the couple reached out to Weitzman and Halpern, and after a few short consultations, gave them free rein on their new home. The wife shares their love of gray and use of texture, as well as their “contemporary but livable and warm” look. The livable part was a necessity because the couple’s two daughters, now 6 and 9 years old, and their pointer-Lab mix Pepper, needed a place to run and play.
For the designers, working with a fashion-forward client was refreshing. “Her fashion sense makes her open to taking some risk,” says Weitzman. “She appreciates things that are a bit more playful, like shots of color and pattern. There’s wallpaper in almost every room.” Their Gotham-meets- midcentury aesthetic is perhaps best exemplified in the living room. There, a chesterfield sofa—one of the few furnishings the couple brought with them—appears more hip when surrounded by sleek Milo Baughman armchairs from the ’60s and funky Lucite side tables from the ’70s. A ’60s Italian chandelier made of hand-blown glass hangs in the nearby dining area.
Respecting the apartment’s picture-perfect views, the designers opted for sheer Roman shades throughout the space, allowing light and the cityscape to filter into the interiors. “It’s sophisticated in a minimalistic way that’s livable, inviting and warm,” says the wife. In other words, they got a Hollywood ending to their renovation dreams.