Elena Frampton has seen her fair share of fabulous New York City residences. But the designer recalls experiencing “a full body jolt” the first time she stepped foot inside her client’s newly purchased Upper East Side duplex. Situated within a landmarked, Italian Renaissance-style building, the apartment was undeniably striking, featuring soaring windows, wood-burning fireplaces and a double-story salon replete with a unique interior Juliet balcony. The owners—a design-savvy couple with three children who found Frampton through her widely-Instagrammed room at the 2018 Brooklyn Heights Designer Showhouse—had been eyeing the address for years, waiting for a unit to become available.
To function for their family, the somewhat unconventional canvas was going to need some reimagining, and, bowled over by the bones, Frampton was more than game for the task. “The idea was to preserve the apartment’s traditional elements and pair them with contrasting contemporary and artistic pieces,” the designer explains. “This couple has a reverence for a classic New York envelope, but the layout needed to make sense for a home with young kids.” And, crucially, “since they love to entertain, the design had to be refined as well,” she adds.
To achieve that balance in the salon, Frampton took great care in composing the mood and floor plan. “We went through a lot of options—both conventional and less conventional iterations,” she recalls. Ultimately, she landed on an asymmetrical setup that straddles the line between formal and fun. “The contemporary sofa is the focal point. It can be broken up and rearranged for entertaining or to accommodate movie nights with the kids,” the designer explains, noting a projector cleverly stashed away at the far end of the room. “On the perimeter, there are classic seating groupings, such as the sectional where you can sit and have drinks and the games table by the bar,” she continues.
The room’s vertical square footage was equally considered. Two towering inset mirrors flanking the fireplace “create light and feel like they could have always been there,” notes Frampton. Large-scale works from the clients’ contemporary art collection, including a Wole Lagunju over the sofa and a Pamela Jorden atop the mantel, similarly celebrate the height of the space. Suspended above, an immense Murano-glass chandelier holds the milieu together while filling the volume of the room’s nearly-20-foot-tall ceilings.
But where the salon might suggest a luminous prism, Frampton wanted “the other rooms to feel like jewel boxes,” she says of her approach to furnishing the apartment’s more human-scaled quarters. Visible through a groovy metal pass-through bar inspired by American Craft movement icon Paul Evans, the dining room certainly earns that designation with its sapphire de Gournay wallcovering, playful lighting fixtures, and brass-rimmed dining chairs covered in emerald performance leather.
Accessible via pocket doors that create a sense of openness for everyday use and intimacy when closed for entertaining, the adjoining kitchen is all about the “richness of the materials,” explains the designer. Formerly operated as a galley-style kitchen, it now boasts a marble-topped island, two-tone cabinetry, a green range and metal-mesh accents on both the vent hood and upper cupboards. For times when the family is craving a casual hangout space, a nearby den lacquered in a deep teal hue serves as a library, office and play area. But perhaps the crown jewel of the home’s jewel box spaces is a small powder room tucked under the staircase, where Frampton tasked decorative painter Agustin Hurtado with adorning the walls in a gilded peacock feather pattern.
Throughout the residence, the designer’s mastery of color and pattern is on proud display. “We chose our moments, and the actual calibration was very exacting,” Frampton shares. Circle back to the largely neutral salon, where carefully deployed flourishes of pattern (the geometric wedges of the sectional upholstery and metal bar), saturation (swaths of blush, lilac and teal) and sheen (see the plastered walls and brass tables) create just the right amount of modernity and vibrancy for young clients living in a historic—and unabashedly uptown—apartment. “Creating something elegant with a fresh perspective for a family is a bit like walking a tight rope,” the designer muses. Fait accompli.