Culture Abounds In An Urban Northeast Getaway


Custom furnishings, European details and well-chosen artwork revitalize a sophisticated couple's classic apartment.

Blush silk velvet from Jim Thompson Fabrics covers the walls in the foyer, which is furnished with a channel-back settee from Hickory Furniture. Created using layers of oil paint on etched mirrored glass, the artwork by Nicole Chesney is from Gallery NAGA in Boston.

Connecting the foyer with the main living areas, the gallery hallway--which provides a peek at a Hellman-Chang chair and a painting by RIchard Shur, Feather--features 1940s brass sconces from the Prince de Galles Hotel in Paris and a lavender wool-and-silk rug by Lisa Tharp for The Rug Company.

Bronze table lamps by Vaughan Lighting illuminate the custom walnut library-style dining tables, which sit on a wool-and-silk carpet by Tim Gosling for The Rug Company. Designed to pull up to the table, the Ferrell Mittman settee is covered in Venetian silk velvet by Schumacher.

A pair of curvaceous sofas by Lisa Tharp covered in a wool silk and mohair fabric from Holly Hunt is joined by a silk-upholstered Victoria Hagan slipper chair and a wood-frame chair, creating an elegant setting for conversation in front of the new Calacatta marble fireplace. The silk carpet is by Helen Amy Murray for The Rug Company.

A banquette covered in fabric by Romo from Hickory Furniture and leather-upholstered dining chairs from Holly Hunt surround an A. Rudin dining table from M-Geough. The polished nickel sconces with silk shades are from The Urban Electric Co. and the alabaster table sculpture is by Caleb Siemon from Aero Studios.

To create a seating nook in the map room, Tharp installed a bench with a cushion upholstered in silk velvet from Jim Thompson Fabrics. The black-and-white photograph is by Richard Phibbs.

>A leather-upholstered bed by Mariette Himes Gomez for Hickory Chair adds texture to the master bedroom, while a painting by Todd McKie on the desk and an archival pigment print by David Maisel on the wall--both from Gallery NAGA--introduce color. A Thomas O'Brien lamp sits atop a nightstand from Made Goods.

A vintage brass-framed wall mirror in the Italian modernist style of Gio Ponti complements the antique sconces in the powder room, which features a wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries and a custom marble sink by Lisa Tharp. The metallic ceiling paint is by the Boston-based painting and finishing company Arteriors.

A Renaissance couple: There’s no better way to describe the husband and wife who hired designer Lisa Tharp to renovate their recently purchased, turn-of-the century urban apartment in the Northeast. In fact it was their passion for literature, science and art that guided Tharp’s concept. “This was an opportunity to showcase who they are–to reflect their intellect and quiet sophistication,” Tharp says. “In every room, there’s something to stimulate conversation and inspire curiosity.”

Which is exactly what happens as soon as one steps off their private elevator: Lustrous brass doors open to a moody reception gallery with glossy black-lacquered walls and a ceiling whose hand-painted tortoise-shell finish adds warmth and interest to the existing black-and-white checkerboard floor. “We were going for maximum drama,” Tharp says.

The glamour continues in the foyer, where the walls are clad in blush silk velvet and a brass-and-opaline-glass Venini chandelier hangs from the ceiling. “I love to mix in European lighting to make our projects more unique and special,” she says. “It’s classical, but it’s midcentury at the same time, so it lends a fresh edge.” In the same spirit, 1940s-era sconces from a Parisian hotel illuminate the yellow-lacquered ceiling in the long gallery, a hue taken from a painting displayed in a newly created wall niche at the end of a long corridor. “It’s a color pop to add excitement and anticipation before you enter the main public spaces,” Tharp says.

That anticipation is rewarded upon entry to the living and dining areas, where Tharp eliminated faux Roman columns and cupcake millwork that didn’t reflect the clients’ easy elegance and prevented open sight lines between the two rooms. Vintage lighting appears again in the form of antique brass-and-glass sconces on either side of the living room fireplace, which was reimagined in Calacatta marble. A large hand-carved silk rug–Tharp calls it “the crème de la crème”–shimmers beneath a pair of custom serpentine sofas covered in silk mohair, one of which features an open back, allowing the view from the dining room to remain unobstructed. “It feels almost like you’re floating in a cloud,” she remarks.

The dining room is equally light and bright. Instead of one table, Tharp incorporated a matching pair in black walnut veneer. Atop each, tall library-style table lamps supplement the light from an alabaster chandelier. Designed to be pulled up to the table, a pair of Venetian silk velvet-covered settees await large soirees. “The goal was to have a space that’s flexible,” Tharp explains. It’s also a space that reflects the couple’s intellectual pursuits. Along one of the walls, new built-in floor-to-ceiling cabinetry with library lights and glass-front bookcases surrounds the entrance to a windowless “map room.” In that room, a silk wallcovering reflects the natural light, while a dark celestial-style mural draws attention to the ceiling. Even the stark photo of a soccer ball above the room’s cozy built-in banquette takes on a planetary quality when viewed in this context. “Everything in this room was inspired by geography, geology, time, nature and history, but it’s not overt,” Tharp notes, pointing to the map she inlaid into the writing surface of the custom secretary. “It doesn’t wander into the cliché.” Another example, behind the sofa in the family room, is a console with an acrylic display case housing millions-year-old rock specimens, antique magnifying lenses and other curiosities.

Newly adorned with period-appropriate wall moldings, the family room’s pale aqua lacquered walls coordinate with the lattice-like pattern on the carpet, its orange accent color an ideal complement to the leather swivel chairs and to the sofa covered in silky linen. “My homage to Milo Baughman,” Tharp explains, referring to the renowned American midcentury furniture designer. Along the back wall, a nearly 20-foot long built-in banquette, which was commissioned in two pieces for ease of transport, creates a space to eat, enjoy the views or play games. There’s even a chessboard lacquered into one of the tabletops. “It’s the client’s favorite hangout,” Tharp says.

The project was a year-long endeavor, but the final result–a sanctuary filled with carefully curated art and objects–indicates a home that has evolved through the years. “Each room has a bit of soul, a story to tell,” observes Tharp. “It feels collected over time.”