“Knowing the clients and what they love, that was our starting point,” says designer Richard Ouellette of the Manhattan holiday home he created for a Canadian couple and their children. “This was our third project together and it’s always a very kismet experience.” The directive behind the brief made this particular project all the more enticing. “They wanted something ‘unexpected,’” Ouellette recalls—a word he immediately took to heart.
To emphasize that this is a vacation home and meant to be enjoyed differently than their primary residence, Ouellette’s first step was distilling the couple’s aesthetic within the modern, cosmopolitan context. “The wife likes an English, layered, decorated look,” he explains. “This isn’t a total departure from their style, but it’s done here in a more restrained, pure way.” So while the apartment bears all the hallmarks of what they love—texture, rich color and a European sophistication—it’s not heavy with overtly personal touches or the sentimentality that comes with heirloom furnishings or memorabilia. The family just “comes in and lives,” he says. “It’s easy.”
Throughout the condo, the designer strove to echo the architecture’s clean lines while infusing warmth, but he kept the unexpected directive top of mind. Case in point: The living area, where the first piece he designed was an angled ultra-suede sofa to shake up the layout. “We could have done the usual, formal approach of a sofa, coffee table and two chairs, but going with a deconstructed sofa felt dynamic. It’s meant to be an evolving and casual setting,” notes the designer. In conversation across the room, Ouellette next procured a cherry red leather daybed, a piece he describes as “a nod to Mies van der Rohe and brilliantly functional, but also a playground for the kids.” Harmonizing the unconventional scheme, discreet textural elements, such as creamy cashmere draperies and a sisal underlay rug, add softness and calm.
Ouellette took an equally curated approach to dressing the walls. He sourced arresting textile artworks, including a hemp-and-ceramic hanging by Michele Quan and a wool tapestry by Lauren Williams, to enliven cool expanses of white paint. And to draw in the views—the new residential building is located above the High Line and boasts its own spectacular gardens designed by Future Green Studio—the designer chose a selection of landscapes and large green and blue abstractions from Thom Filicia’s showroom, Sedgwick & Brattle. “Nature always needs to be part of the conversation,” Ouellette posits. “It brings life into a house.”
From their dégage leaning perches above the living room media cabinet and foyer table, respectively, those colorful pieces command attention, but it’s the feature wall backdrop in the adjacent dining area that really steals the show. To define that space, Ouellette framed a quartet of sweeping, pink silk de Gournay panels in a classic chinoiserie motif. Hung snugly together, they almost suggest boiserie. Illuminating the scene, the bespoke chandelier—a “bijoux” in Ouellette’s words—was chosen specifically to reflect the soft candy hues of the panels. “It’s subtle, but it’s there,” notes the designer of the tonal relationship.
“It’s just more fun to have color,” muses Ouellette—a sentiment on proud display in the home’s uplifting bedrooms. The master is a study in the power of opposites with its kicky orange-and-blue palette, and the boys’ rooms as well are vibrant with color, one with a lively jungle wallpaper and the other with an underwater scene. Proving just how flexible and accommodating this new condo has already been, the latter was originally intended to be a study, but baby number two arrived mid-design.
What Ouellette has captured here is the essence of this family’s life on vacation, which he describes as “calm, simple and happy.” But it’s not time to put away the presentation boards just yet. The group has just embarked on its fourth project together. This time it’s a cottage on a lake, and one that will no doubt emanate ease and be filled with equally resplendent surprises.