As a first-time homeowner, Shana Randhava wanted to do everything right—and she did. First, she bought in the historic St. Mark’s area of New York City’s East Village, purchasing a quaint 261⁄2-foot-wide garden-level co-op in a 19th-century Greek Revival town house. Interestingly enough, the home just happened to be the former residence of actress Chloë Sevigny. Second, Shana turned to California designer and artist Lauren Geremia, who enlisted assistance from builder Richard Baronio, to update the two-bedroom to reflect her soft and feminine style, one that combines her own laid-back West Coast roots with her polished New York lifestyle as an executive at Estée Lauder. The result is a romantic retreat with its own private entry in the building’s front garden, an effect that adds to a feeling of serene seclusion from the city.
Geremia is based in the San Francisco Bay Area but grew up on the East Coast and studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, making her the perfect designer to bridge the bicoastal sensibilities. “My work is contemporary, but I also love craft and old things,” she says. “I was very excited about the bare bones of the home’s architecture.” Shana’s town house came with its original beamed ceilings, wide-plank pine flooring, two wood-burning replaces and base moldings, and the designer knew pairing charming vintage furnishings with modern bespoke pieces would help strike a balance between old and new.
For this project, Geremia prioritized a softer look than what’s typical of her designs, selecting a pale palette of white, pink, blush and lavender as well as touches of red, with gold and brass accents. “I chose a pink that’s more fleshy—not super sweet, girly or babyish,” she says. “We used adult pinks.” Hence, a daybed upholstered in pale pink is the sophisticated focal point of the living room, and a pink throw in a richer hue accents a cream sofa nearby. Touches of pink and red in the master bedroom’s multicolored Persian rug further unify the look. “The house is small and flows from one room to the next, so I wanted the palette to continue,” the designer says. “The colors complement the layout.”
The challenge, however, was bringing light into the garden-level residence, which opens with a Dutch door to a long hall that leads to the master bedroom and living room. The master bedroom has two windows facing the front garden, just off the street; in the rear, the kitchen and dining room look onto the back garden. The living room, tucked in the middle with a beamed ceiling and an existing wall of antiqued mirror, has no windows. It also had a wall of built-in bookshelves colored a receding black.
To brighten the shelves, “we wired them for lighting and painted them white,” Geremia says. She also added a feminine vintage floor lamp to the room and tasked Lauren Larsen and Christian Swafford from Material Lust to assist with styling the bookcases. Known for their line of sculptural and provocative accessories, the design duo helped select objects and artwork to accompany the books on the shelves: brass bud vases, ceramic pieces and candle holders of various heights, among other items. “It’s a masculine approach to delicate objects,” Geremia explains. The installation is adjacent to the mirrored wall, which has beautiful age spots. Now the lights reflect off the mirror as well as the white walls and ceiling, illuminating the space.
Light was already plentiful in the kitchen and dining area, which features original terra-cotta flooring and opens with another Dutch door to the rear garden. In the kitchen, Geremia removed an enclosed pantry to create a work space with a built-in desk. She left the hand-painted tiles on the wall and instead opted to update the existing black-painted cabinetry’s hardware with sleek ivory pulls.
For the master bedroom, which receives filtered light from the two windows in the front, Geremia painted the room’s walls white, then dressed the windows in two layers of draperies. On the inside, a heavy velvet in cornflower blue-gray with tassel fringe offers privacy. Against the window is a lace sheer, which lets in just enough light during the day and “makes it pretty from the outside,” the designer says.
As a benefit of working in New York, Geremia was able to tap into the East Coast designers and artists she became familiar with from her RISD days and work with them more intimately than she does from across the country. In the master bedroom, for example, Sawkille made the deep blue bed, DLV designed the handmade sheep settee, Jenny Blumenfield’s sandblasted ceramics top a dresser and Alexander Barton painted the artwork above the replace.
The garden apartment is now the soft haven Shana imagined it could be: part airy, open West Coast vibes; part East Coast restraint—and with details that make it distinctly personal. Hanging from every hammered-clay doorknob are tassels that lend a beautiful touch, and two large framed panels of hand-painted floral murals punctuate the hall, bringing the outdoor surroundings inside. True to the spirit of its East Village neighborhood, the home is doing its own thing, which gives it a pedigree all its own.