There is one hard-and-fast rule when looking for an apartment in New York City: Location is key. So when John and Barbara Cavoores left their house in the burbs for a tony apartment in the city, they fell hard for the Chelsea Mercantile—one of the area’s most sought-after buildings. Originally from New York, the Cavooreses hopped around the world as they raised their three children, spending a few years each in such places as Southern California, London and New Jersey, but they both knew that as soon as the kids left the nest, Manhattan would be their ultimate playground. So when the time came, the couple promptly moved into their desired location.
In Manhattan, century-old industrial buildings that were eventually turned into top-of-the-line condos dot the grid, and the Mercantile Building—with its historical background and high-profile celebrity inhabitants—is truly no exception. Such a hip address would need an enticing interior, however, and the Cavooreses quickly realized they had to up the ante in the design department. So they hired downtown interior designer Jenny Wolf to help give their 100-year-old space a warm welcome into the 21st century.
“The views are incredible, and the tall windows allow for an abundance of light to enter the space,” says interior designer Jenny Wolf, who studied at Parsons and cut her teeth in visual merchandising at Ralph Lauren before starting her own firm a handful of years ago. Wolf, along with project manager Dakota Willimon, set out to completely transform what she dubbed “the yellow Sheetrock box.” says the designer, “I knew we could convert it into an elegant, serene retreat from the cacophony of the city below, but it was going to take some work.”
Hoping to modernize the floor plan and make the apartment more functional, the couple—with the help of builder Scott Sassoon—enlisted architect Scott Michael Stapleton to guide the eventual transformation. “It was very enclosed with a partitioned-off dining room,” says Stapleton about the original floor plan. “We opened that up so both the living and dining rooms could become one gigantic space that also opens to the kitchen. Now you have views all the way back to the middle of the apartment.” To capitalize on the high ceilings, the team added crown moldings throughout and, in the main living room, a coffered ceiling with light blue inset panels.
When it came time to furnish the apartment, Wolf completely customized nearly every piece in the home, drawing inspiration from her formative years growing up surrounded by both French antiques and contemporary furniture, as her parents were in the furniture business. “We wanted the home to have an eclectic feel—the refined mixed with the casual,” says Wolf. “However, while the furnishings had to be beautiful, they also had to be comfortable. The living room sofa is wide and deep, and the fabrics have a range of linens and velvets, which are soft and relaxed.”
To add even more airiness, Wolf chose an ethereal color palette filled with blue, gray and green tones as accent colors. She also employed a multitude of textures, such as Belgian linen window treatments and sisal rugs, to lend a relaxed feel to the home. “As you walk into the different spaces, you get a little surprise,” says Barbara. “And that’s what we really wanted for our home.”
Meanwhile, the apartment’s long, lackluster entry hallway—which originally had yellow walls and simple white doors—was transformed to create a dramatic entrance into the living area. “We did a lacquered Venetian plaster wall paint in the foyer,” says Sassoon. “It was a delicate process, and multiple coats needed to be applied.” Wolf adds that the lacquered walls reflect light in the windowless space, “which is really enchanting,” she says. The team also inset antiqued-mirrored panels on the doors to make the space really sparkle.
Although most of the furnishings are custom, Wolf couldn’t resist incorporating a rustic old farm table that already belonged to Barbara—but added her own signature spin. “We stained the wood top,” says the designer, and had the bottom distressed and painted a light blue.” Barbara loves the way its new blue hue brings out the color in the kitchen cabinets.
Because Barbara is a passionate cook and entertainer, the team gave her what she calls a serious kitchen. “She had a specific kitchen layout that she wanted, so we just followed her lead,” Stapleton said. Originally, a peninsula jutted into the space; that was removed and instead replaced with an island to create better flow. Then, to maximize the ceiling height, the cabinetry was extended to give the couple the storage space that they needed. The finishing touch was adding the crown jewel of high-end appliances: a beautiful La Cornue oven. “They really enjoy the loft-like look, and he wanted exposed brick,” Wolf adds. “So we put some in the kitchen, behind the oven, and had it perfectly distressed so it looks like it’s been there for a million years.”
From the beginning, the Cavooreses knew they needed a design to fit the long-standing, high-profile status of the Chelsea Mercantile, and in the end, they felt they got exactly what they wanted. “It was a go-big-or-go-home kind of moment for us,” says Barbara. They went big, and now they are right at home.