When it comes to putting together an interior, no detail is too inconsequential where Rajni Alex is concerned. The designer doesn’t just subscribe to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s dictum “God is in the details,” she fiercely embraces it. Consider the prewar loft she recently renovated in Tribeca. Her clients, a couple with a young son, initially wanted to paint, redo the main bathroom and bring some definition to the space. During her walk-through, Alex took note of the existing layout and abundant light, and promptly suggested “kicking things up a notch” with a complete renovation. “The apartment had immense potential,” she recalls. “It was just a matter of carving it out in a way that made sense for their lifestyle.”
In a home that’s sophisticated yet perfectly suited to a busy family with a toddler, Alex has judiciously sprinkled one-of-a-kind moments like the moody elevator vestibule, the sculptural brass-based table near the entrance and the hand-carved floating console in the dining room. But the apartment never feels precious, and no space is off-limits. Pointing to the curvy ottoman in the foyer, Alex says, “That’s performance velvet, so even if their child climbs on it with sticky fingers, you can just dab it clean with a wet paper towel. My kids are older now, but I remember that stage. Performance fabrics have come a long way.”
But before she could attend to decorative details, Alex knew she first had to bring order to the interiors. This meant designing steel-and-brass screens to help define the foyer, replacing an ill-conceived wood accent wall in the living room with a formal fireplace and transforming the main bathroom into a serene oasis. Meanwhile, the existing open concept kitchen inspired Alex to go for bold. “I told the clients, ‘Let’s have fun with it.’ No disrespect to white kitchens—I’ve had one for a long time,” she adds, “but if you’re going to have an open space, make it a showstopper.” In turn, the original island was shifted to give the adjacent dining area some breathing room, while a combination of ebony cabinetry and Calacatta marble infused the space with high-contrast punch.
General contractor Richard Dobrzanski proved to be an invaluable collaborator. In addition to fabricating the kitchen’s burnished brass hood, he crafted the apartment’s myriad fluted wood details and brought symmetry to the existing columns in the main rooms. He also worked closely with Alex to get the stain just right on the wood floors. “It might seem like the smallest detail, but it took us a month to land on the right color,” Alex explains. “Richard is a rare breed. He respects me and my attention to detail, and I respect him for delivering what my team and I strive for—perfection.”
Aided by designers Jessica Gallardo and Ashley Tortorella, Alex deployed the apartment’s singular elements with restraint. “A lot of thought goes into selecting pieces,” she says. “It’s like when you dress yourself: You can wear the most beautiful dress, earrings and necklace, but they shouldn’t compete with one other. It’s the same with putting a room together. You want to be mindful of using beautiful things and placing them so they’re not all trying to claim your attention at once.” In an open-plan layout, giving individual pieces their due can be tricky, but Alex made sure to size up the furniture and lighting from every angle. “We needed each space to have its own purpose without creating walls,” she explains. “But we wanted to be sure the details were beautiful from every vantage point.”
In contrast to the home’s mostly neutral palette, Alex injected a vibrant dose of color into the powder room, which features a hand-painted green wallpaper accented with gold veining, a Cipollino marble vanity and jewelry-like lighting. “People walk in and they’re like, ‘Wow, wow, wow,’ until they’ve exhausted all their wows,” she muses.
But the designer never forgot that this is, at heart, a family home. “We always think of longevity,” she says. “What’s now the playroom can become a media room just by changing the styling. You can do something glamorous and chic that’s usable and functional at the same time.”