All About A Spunky Vibe: An UES Home Puts A Zingy Twist On The Traditional


blue lacquered library

The library in this Manhattan apartment “was the darkest room in the house,” says designer Josh Greene, “so we were able to really punch up the color.” He lacquered the walls in a cobalt hue and selected a terra-cotta Larsen Fabrics mohair for the sofa. On the tufted armchair is a Zak+Fox solid.

Schumacher’s Chiang Mai Dragon design on the shades was the jumping off point for the colorful library. A Twigs wallpaper with a pattern reminiscent of the marbled end papers of antique books covers the ceiling and a Marc Phillips rug grounds the floor.

In the foyer of an Upper East Side apartment, designer Josh Greene selected a table with a base by Fisher Weisman Collection and a top in the same marble as the flooring in the adjacent elevator vestibule. The vintage Barovier & Toso ceiling light and a bench in a Rubelli textile typify the home’s artful mix. The door hardware is by P.E. Guerin.

Having plenty of seating was of paramount importance in the living room, so Greene conceived multiple spots to read, lounge and entertain. One, centered around a Magni Home Collection coffee table, includes a sofa in a Claremont mohair with trim by Holland & Sherry, a pair of swivel chairs from Luther Quintana Upholstery in a Nancy Corzine silk velvet and two vintage stools in a leopard print.

The clients’ own chairs, now sporting Garrett Leather coverings, join a Jasper games table in a corner of the living room. Greene commissioned artist Nancy Lorenz to create the large painted panels which hang on custom plaster treatment walls. Underfoot is a Tai Ping carpet.

As part of the renovation, the living room gained a new gray marble Chesney’s fireplace surround with custom Hearth Cabinet insert. On either side are vintage Italian gilt brass and alabaster sconces found on 1stdibs. Dedar fabric envelopes a petite side chair.

Pulling in the gold detailing of the 19th-century Louis XVI buffet discovered at Cedric DuPont Antiques in West Palm Beach, Florida, Greene layered a silk Tai Ping carpet, wallpaper by Aux Abris and Weiman/Warren Lloyd for Mastercraft chairs into the dining room.

The glamorous dining room caters to large-scale entertaining and family dinners alike with its airy floor plan. Beneath a cluster of Apparatus lighting fixtures stands a Holly Hunt table topped with a pair of oversized Karl Springer lanterns from Lobel Modern.

A tropical themed toile wallcovering by Cole & Sons and a Doris Leslie Blau carpet in a chevron pattern define a bedroom. Greene updated the client’s existing bed with a Schumacher linen and chair with a Clarence House velvet. Resting on the Made Goods night table is a Christopher Spitzmiller lamp.

Builder and architectural designer Lee Stahl added a powder bathroom off the entryway. Greene adopted a jewel box approach for the small space with an exuberant Voutsa wallcovering made of hand-blocked fabric, an Art Nouveau mirror from Lobel Modern and a vanity inspired by the work of legendary designer James Mont. The basin set, bowl and door hardware are by P.E. Guerin.

A family’s apartment in a storied prewar building has all the hallmarks of an Upper East Side classic. Luxurious satins and velvets? Check. Fabulous antiques? Double check. Show-stopping art? Of course. But look again. Among the customary details are surprises: quirky details, commissioned artwork and standout midcentury furnishings. “It was a really fun exercise,” says designer Josh Greene, who honed his skills at Ralph Lauren and with Michael Smith. “I was able to tap a part of my experience to create something on the Upper East Side, but not have it look so traditional. There’s more flair and attitude, yet it’s refined and proper.”

To find the balance between sophisticated tradition and modern edge meant Greene and builder and architectural designer Lee Stahl addressed every inch of the New York City home. “We looked at the apartment with an eye toward not having to touch things again,” explains Stahl. “That’s how it grew into a gut renovation.” It helped that the client was decisive and pragmatic—something Stahl already knew, having completed several projects for her over the years. “She said, ‘Let’s do it all now, not in pieces or stages,’” he recalls.

A major kitchen overhaul figured prominently in that plan. “We borrowed space from the massive entry gallery and built an eat-in breakfast area,” says Stahl, adding that the wife, “was beside herself with the end result because she’s a New Yorker who actually cooks.” Evolving technologies allowed the team to open up and reconfigure other parts of the apartment as well. For example, previously a small room was needed to house the unit’s electrical equipment whereas now “it fits in a half a closet,” he notes. Seizing the square footage, a new powder room was tucked off the entryway and further elevating the interiors, Stahl wove in details like a bespoke built-ins, fireplaces and plaster moldings throughout.

With Stahl’s stunning canvas, the stage was set for Greene to take the home to another level—a feat aided by the client’s own willingness to push the envelope. “She didn’t want a beige, subtle apartment,” Greene observes. Case in point: The wife informed him of an ebony-and-gold 19th-century French cabinet she had spied in Palm Beach and after seeing in person, Greene convinced her it was indeed a perfect fit for the dining room. That piece took the room in a compelling new direction, with the designer pulling it’s gilt hues into selections for the carpet, wallcoverings, sconces and vintage Mastercraft chairs.

In the grand living room, client pushed designer once more. “Early on, we settled on a scheme,” Greene remembers, “but she came back and said that her son and husband didn’t think it was enough.” So he returned to the drawing board, crafting a design that mixes dressy touches, like voluminous draperies and velvet tub chairs, with pluckier hits, like the 1970s Italian stools dressed in leopard print and lamps with Egyptian motifs that Greene repurposed from a pair of vintage pots. A brazen undercurrent carries into the library, which Greene and Stahl decked out in a rich, cobalt blue marine-quality enamel. A rust-toned wallpaper reminiscent of the inside of a vintage book was added to the ceiling to cozy effect.

Notably, the extensive project required the expertise of some of Greene’s favorite collaborators. Jona Brisske—who first referred Greene to the client—served as an informal owner’s representative and contributing architect, advising on schematics and architectural elements throughout. One beguiling example: The classical millwork replete with fluted columns that she designed for the dining room. “It was an opportunity to elevate the formality and classical nature of the entire design,” notes Brisske. The artist Nancy Lorenz, whom Greene knew from his early design days, was commissioned to make a series of large panels featuring abstract sweeps of gold. And his desire for a luxurious envelope to distinguish the living room saw him tap the finish specialists at Fresco Decorative Painting to create a soft, pearlescent plaster treatment. “When you’re doing a project of this scale, you can explore things,” Greene notes. “Your home isn’t so much decorated as curated for you and with you.”

That thoughtful approach is what makes Greene’s work special. “Every project is different,” muses the designer. “It’s my style and my clients’ style and desires filtered through the architecture of the space.” At the end of the job, he adds, “The most important thing is that they feel like it’s theirs.”