Having clients with wide-ranging tastes can be a double-edged sword for many designers. On the one hand, the richness of choices one can draw from offers unlimited creative potential. On the other hand, it could be a case of too many options, where the breadth of that diversity makes homing in on just the right look more elusive. For it to work, the client and designer must be open yet clear, creative yet disciplined. Happily, Sara Gilbane and her client were all these things.
Those clients—a young Indian entrepreneur who owns a popular Manhattan watering hole, his American wife and their two preschool-age girls—were relocating from their Tribeca loft to a nearby townhouse that was integrated into a larger condominium building. Because Gilbane had designed the loft, she already knew the wife “liked lots of styles, from traditional to midcentury modern,” and that she favored environments layered with a mix of fabrics both ethnic and vintage.
Though the building was not old, notes the wife, “it had been unloved. There was mold, some rooms had funky wallpaper, and there was only one bulb lighting the whole living and dining room.” Conversely, she realized, “it felt more like a family home, and much more conducive to entertaining,” something the couple loved to do. So, she asked Gilbane to lighten and freshen up spaces, which she did beginning in the entry hall by reaimagining it with a chic black and white palette. “It’s a classic combo,” says Gilbane, “and it was a good jumping-off point for the living and dining room.”
That didn’t mean, however, that the designer didn’t get to have a little fun with color. “I love color and Sara does, too,” says the wife. “She really ‘got’ it when I said I wanted blue and some kind of orange.” Gilbane translated the wife’s request into a bold yet sophisticated living area with a deeply saturated palette of indigo and various burnt orange shades that are lively and quirky without tipping toward retro.
In the kitchen, Gilbane punctuated the nearly all-white space with another of the wife’s favorite colors—apple green. A banquette in the cheery hue dominates the attached breakfast nook, which relies on Bungalow 5 Oslo chairs for a midcentury vibe and Phillip Jefferies wallpaper in a green Moorish pattern that gives the room the cultural twist the family loves. “I respond to geometric or repetitive patterns like those found in Islamic art,” admits the wife, “but I also like the look of layered prints and colors, which I think brings out a more global aesthetic.”
Consciously or not, every room seems to have an international flavor arising uniquely from the homeowners’ personal mix of heritage. Occasional Indian furnishings (a creamy nacre-inlaid chair in the master bedroom and an elephant side table in the living room), as well as many ethnically inspired textiles, such as the ikat on the living room arm chairs, ramp up the worldly feel. This bohemian blend was further elevated with exquisite finishes, which builder John Hite says were the project’s greatest challenge.
The courtyard was as unloved as the interiors, so landscape designer Lauren E. Loscialo made it feel “like an extension of the home,” going so far as to mix two varieties of granite and a limestone in different widths and lengths to mimic an interior wood plank floor. She then segregated this “room” for multiple use: “We made a kind of living room and dining area with a fieldstone seating wall where adults want to sit,” she says, “leaving the rest of the patio open so the kids could play.”
Structured plants, such as boxwood mixed with more unpredictable meandering vines, like clematis and climbing hydrangea, echo the freewheeling mix inside the French doors. The cumulative effect—both youthful and sophisticated, traditional and modern—perfectly distills the owners’ broad spectrum of tastes into a diverse yet coherent multicultural whole.