Art Deco Opulence Meets Beaux Arts Classicism In A Manhattan Duplex


blue millwork brass sconce

Hand-painted koi fish dance across Gracie silk panels, adding drama to the jewel-box dining room, which is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue. Antique brass starburst sconces from Elizabeth Pash Interiors & Antiques provide accent lighting.

blue koi wallpaper

A Murano-glass chandelier draws eyes upward to the artful plaster ceiling. Below, a Keith Fritz table and a Stark rug with a geometric design lends the room contemporary flair. Custom panels made from Clarence House’s Kumo velvet sumptuously frame the views.

black lacquer door arched portals

Over the entry door, the custom lunette by Plasterworks Inc with Foster Reeve and sculptor Emily Bedard features an Art Deco-style starburst design. Artwork by Garth Weiser hangs over a Wood and Hogan console. The lantern is by Jamb.

grand foyer modern art

A Gabriel Vormstein piece welcomes guests in the foyer. Custom columns flank the entry to the living room, where a Lorna Simpson painting hangs over the mantel while Mason daybeds by Dmitriy & Co sit opposite a coffee table from Cosulich Interiors & Antiques.

built-in brass bar

It took a team of artisans to bring the built-in bar cabinet from idea to reality: Grace and Ryan Inc handled the millwork, Object Metal/Pivot the metalwork, and Miriam Ellner crafted the egolomise door fronts. The globe pendant is vintage Murano glass.

klismos chairs card table

Midcentury Klismos chairs and a card table by EcoFirst Design offer a chic game night spot. An Erik Winstrom hand-knotted rug features a bird motif. The 1940s floor lamp is a 1stdibs find, and the wall art is by E.V. Day.

cerused oak kitchen

White oak cabinets and bespoke flooring from Shelly Tile bring warmth and pattern to the kitchen. The breakfast area features a Julian Chichester hammered-brass table base topped with onyx, and Christopher Farr fabric on the banquette.

linen upholstered walls bedroom

Walls upholstered in Lee Jofa’s Lamorna embroidered linen offer a delicate backdrop for a statement headboard by LF Upholstery in the guest room. The alabaster lamp is by Julie Neill for Circa and topped with a jaunty custom shade.

leather desk guest room

A leather chair by Wood and Hogan offers a place to sit and scribble a note under the glow of a retro-style desk lamp. A tailored Roman blind made from Aldeco raw linen provides a soft filter at the window.

serene blue bedroom

A blue-silk wallcovering from Cowtan & Tout creates a luxurious cocoon in the primary bedroom, where a Liz O’Brien plaster pendant adds ambient lighting. Artwork by Chris Ofili provides an edgy counterpoint.

white marble bathroom

In the primary bath, Carrara marble surrounds the tub. Ann Sacks’ geometric Mulholland tile on the floor and a Charles Edwards star pendant play into the Art Deco vibe of the building while still feeling of this time.

New York City has no shortage of storied apartment buildings with blue-chip architecture and well-heeled residents, but few have the pedigree of the majestic River House. Completed by the venerable architecture firm Bottomley, Wagner and White in 1931, the building whose bell-like tower and stately wings overlook the East River, has been home to the swank set, including Vanderbilts and Roosevelts, since it opened its gates nearly a century ago.

For a pair of empty nesters, the move to River House signaled a return to a cherished childhood playground, as the wife’s family once belonged to the illustrious River Club—a country club for residents offering golf, tennis, swimming and dining in the heart of Manhattan. “It’s a place I knew well having grown up in New York,” she says. “We looked at this apartment and immediately fell in love, but we knew it was going to be a big project.”

Formerly the first-floor level of a duplex, the unit had been renovated and reapportioned over the years, losing much of its original charm and flow in the process. “You could tell there was potential, but it didn’t feel like anything special,” shares architect Erin Hook, who oversaw the transformation alongside her husband and business partner Tim Hook and designer Sallie Giordano. “It felt like what it was: one half of somebody’s once-grand apartment.”

Beyond redefining it as a gracious, single-story residence, one of the primary goals was to eliminate the disconnect that was occurring on the elevator ride from the gloriously ornate lobby. “When you walk into the building, you are greeted by eglomise mirror panels and lots of marble,” Giordano says. “The apartment needed to have the same sense of luxury and stature.” For inspiration, the trio looked to the building’s unique blend of Art Deco opulence and Beaux Arts classicism. “The clients wanted to use the flavor of Deco, but in a softer, more restrained way,” Tim explains. Enlarging the entry and organizing it through a series of minimalist, Regency-style arches inspired by the work of British architect John Soane created a formal gallery to set that tone upon arrival. “We love the neoclassical period and thought there was a good interweaving of that with what Bottomley had done,” the architect adds.

Moving off the entry, thoughtful details engage the eye at every turn. Fluted columns frame the opening to the living room, where a custom built-in bar with eglomise panel doors by artisan Miriam Ellner echo those in the building’s lobby. “We wanted it to look like we took an old-fashioned paneled closet and placed a contemporary piece of furniture inside it,” Giordano explains of the concept. “We loved the idea of taking something modern and putting it in a traditional envelope.”

The same could be said of their approach to the narrow, jewel-box dining room, which underwent a dramatic transformation through the addition of plaster paneling with mirrored accents, and hand-painted silk panels featuring a koi-fish motif. Above, a tented ceiling design hides existing roof drainage pipes for a result that is both a practical solution and a stunning showpiece.

Meanwhile, a meticulous reconceiving of many areas’ proportions ushered the residence into modern living. The existing galley-style cook space, former maids’ quarters and a back hallway were consolidated to form a new, larger eat-in kitchen. And, because the apartment had limited closets, private living spaces were reconfigured to give the owners’ suite and guest room his-and-hers dressing rooms, as well as clever hidden built-ins.

When it came time to furnish the space, Giordano then used the period-inspired interior architecture as a backdrop to juxtapose shapely, modern-leaning silhouettes with the owner’s contemporary art collection. It’s that exacting cocktail of old and new—fueled by a wonderfully collaborative effort between architects and designer—that elevates the space and helps bridge the gap between the glamorous past it references and the more current tastes of its present-day owners.

“There’s something really appealing about the Art Deco era and its outlook on embracing change,” Tim says. “It was a time to think about comfort, convenience and what easy, elegant living could look like—and that translates to this project.” And no one is happier with the finished push-and-pull than the clients. “I love the thoughtfulness of every spec and every molding, and the utility of how you walk into a room and how it presents itself,” the wife shares. “It’s just perfect.”