What struck interior designer Gideon Mendelson most about the owners of this freshly renovated Manhattan duplex was their flair. “It was one of those situations where the clients have these wild, fun, vibrant personalities,” he says. “They came to the table with a lot of energy and I really saw that as an opportunity.”
Beyond the “handsome, sophisticated” interiors that Mendelson often designs for his New York City clients, this couple—the wife especially—had something quite adventurous in mind. “Usually when clients come into my office, I try to gauge how much they’re willing to entertain when it comes to a palette or pattern,” he says. “A lot of clients are interested in neutrals and I can only push so much, but as I threw whimsical patterns on the table, her eyes lit up more and more.”
Mendelson took that enthusiasm and ran with it, injecting the home’s living and entertaining areas with as much punch as possible. That includes a wild, animalia wallpaper in the dining room, which is intended to evoke a feeling of looseness and delight for the guests. “The dining room wallpaper is as crazy as I think I can go,” he muses. “And it tells folks sitting at their table, ‘Hey, we’re not afraid of who we are.’ ”
The pops of purple within that wallpaper in turn inspired the colors for other spaces. Looking across the living room—which follows a rich scheme of turquoise blues and greens—you’ll catch glimpses of a purple door leading to a purple office. “I tend to design with the philosophy that a home should have an overall palette or some consistency,” Mendelson explains. “And I like the idea of relationships from room to room. In this case, it was the idea of a vista where you can be sitting at the dining table and feel connected to the length of the apartment. That’s a comfortable way of understanding scale.” Likewise, looking from the other end of the apartment, the soft, dreamy blue of the kitchen cabinetry and vintage glass pendants connects tonally with the palette of the living room.
While Mendelson selected most of the furniture—a combination of vintage midcentury, antique and custom pieces—the couple had an extensive personal collection of art and ceramics that they wanted incorporated into the home’s design. “One of the hardest things as a designer is being able to hang existing art that is very sentimental and personal to the clients,” he says, adding that he found ways to let artworks set the tone of certain rooms. In the living room, for example, a painting of a garden scene inspired the green and blue palette of the rug and furniture upholstery. And, just in case the dining room didn’t already have enough visual stimulation, he managed to harmonize several artworks against the wild wallpaper. “People are always very afraid to hang art if they have a really strong pattern on the walls,” he says. “But my attitude is that you absolutely can. And it could be strong art, it could be softer art, it could be a collection of mirrors. There’s no rule other than it’s got to feel right.”
To personalize the existing framework of the apartment, Mendelson and his team of artisans and tradespeople got creative with millwork. In the dressing room off the main bedroom, custom closets—clad in a suiting-like wallpaper—provide extra storage. And to make use of the wide hallway that led from the foyer to the den, they installed a custom built-in bar that offshoots from the dining room, as a kind of “jewel box space” that adds another dimension to the family’s entertaining program.
“What I continue to learn is how powerful design is,” Mendelson says. “This is a wonderful family and the design only enhances who they are and how strong their connection is to one another. It’s about more than having beautiful things around them—it’s about them coming together as a family at the end of the day and enjoying those things even more than they already did.”