Things happen for a reason, as the saying goes. So seemed to be the case for a young family that began to outgrow its Central Park West apartment in both size and style. But timing was on their side. The space next door came on the market, and the husband and wife were keen to combine it with theirs into a newly expanded family home.
“They now had an additional 2,200 square feet to play with,” architect John B. Murray says of the purchase. Having completed renovations to the family’s original apartment almost a decade ago, Murray was a natural fit for the project, as he was well versed in both the couple’s aesthetic and the building’s structural intricacies. Working with builders Syd Wolfe, Melissa Kartzman and Steve Sacripanti, Murray stripped the apartment bare. “As we redesigned the interiors for this new combined residence, it became a comprehensive redo to the point that nothing remained,” the architect says.
“The apartment was pretty much taken down to the studs,” explains Kartzman. “That allowed us to really get it right.” Presented with a blank slate, the couple opted to push the direction of the new, supersized space in a lighter and brighter direction that could accommodate daily family life as well as sophisticated entertaining. Also on the design agenda: interiors that combined the husband’s traditional tastes with the wife’s penchant for modern.
Murray laid the foundation for this delicate balance by scaling back on certain architectural details to achieve a more contemporary feel, such as in the doorways, where he went with bevels rather than classic moldings. The same concept is evident in the living room. “There’s a blend of both traditional and contemporary styles,” says Wolfe of the design decision. “There’s crown molding, but it’s dropped, so it’s a floating crown molding, which is more of a modern detail.” To complement Murray’s unique framework, the owners called upon interior designers Mark Cunningham and Alex Gaston in the project’s early stages. “The clients are a fun couple with a young spirit,” Cunningham says. “So while they wanted the apartment to be sophisticated, they also wanted it to reflect that part of their personality.”
A top priority was incorporating their impressive collection of modern art. “We were really conscious of using the art in a purposeful way as opposed to just matching it with colors in a contrived manner,” says Gaston. In a shift from the browns and tans that dominated the apartment’s previous incarnation, he created a “livable art gallery,” introducing a contemporary palette of silvery gray, black and white. The living room was planned around a large Tara Donovan drawing containing tones of white and silver. “We knew it would go there because of the scale and how much everybody liked it,” says Cunningham, “so that was an inspiration for us.”
Larger works also live in the entry gallery directly off the foyer, one of the renovated apartment’s most prized features, which Gaston feels exudes a strong downtown vibe. To further play up that feeling, a geometric-shaped leather ottoman was selected in lieu of a typical center table. “It’s cool and unexpected,” he notes. The additional square footage also provided enough space to create an integrated family room and kitchen. “For a young family there’s nothing better than this, as it allows everyone to be together,” says Murray. Here, black floors juxtapose white walls, providing a crisp background for bright art. “There are bold pops of color,” says Gaston, “but the room is tonal overall.”
In the luxurious master suite, complete with a sitting room and his-and-her master bathrooms (hers, nickel and white; his, colored stone) the goal was serenity. Cunningham and Gaston used materials such as the silk rug and the mica on a niche accent wall, lending it sophistication. Sleek metallic walls in the sitting room up the ante.
The entire team agrees the final successful result can be credited to incorporating contemporary colors and styles, but still nodding to the traditional architecture. “When you pay to attention size and scale,” says Gaston, “you get something that feels really fresh, but lasting.”