|This project was an unusual
situation. It began as a revamp of a 2-storey penthouse for the
owner of this 60's era rental building, in preparation for a
new tenant. While the tenant would have some input, my plan was
to be generic, in that it would work for anyone able to afford
the 3600 square foot apartment. From the outset, we envisioned
a great entertaining space, with parties overflowing into a large
open kitchen, and walls hung with wonderful art. When the project
morphed into assisting the tenant to transition to her new home,
she proved to be perfectly suited to our vision, and vice versa.
Her former home was furnished with ornate French antiques, custom
traditional and art deco cabinets, and mid-century pieces both
original and reproduction. Her walls were covered with noted
photography and artworks amassed over many decades with and by
her late husband. And she herself is a devoted collector of objets
and lover of eclectic decor and bright colours. When it came
time to edit her belongings for the move, I encouraged her to
keep many of the furniture pieces she thought she would have
to get rid of. My concept: to layer elements modern, vintage,
and old -- inspired by examples of classic New York apartments.
In reimagining the apartment, the building owner had requested
that we retain locations of plumbing fixtures, HVAC systems,
and structural elements. Within these limitations, we were able
to eliminate walls from the original plans that had closed off
the kitchen and dining room from the rest of the living space.
Now, guests who enter the wide 2-storey foyer are drawn in all
directions by sights of the city below and beyond. Directly ahead,
a vintage Le Corbusier chaise is posed in front of a 2-storey
window; to the right, the sleek open kitchen has expansive views
to the west; and to the left lies the main living area culminating
in a wall of 18-foot greenhouse windows facing south.
With the new open concept, the kitchen naturally became an extension
of the entertaining space. The tenant/client had requested an
all-white kitchen, with flat fronts and minimal details. We selected
white high-gloss cabinetry and
counters in white quartz to keep things simple and sleek. By
sectioning off a generous walk-in pantry at one end of the extra-long
room, we were able to create a functional galley layout. Against
the wall, a run of lowers is bookended by tall appliance cabinets,
while floating shelves replace standard uppers. A 10'-plus island
houses an induction cook-top and features plentiful drawers and
pullouts for dishes, utensils and essential ingredients. Since
the client rarely cooks, we were able to rely on the ventilation
system built into the ceiling, and thus avoid a hood above the
With the resulting open sightline from the living room to the
kitchen wall, we needed to add some wow to the all-white envelope.
From the start, we envisioned a brightly coloured backdrop, and
after considering the client's personality and belongings, fuchsia
leapt to mind. Playing off the room's black doors, we selected
black accents in the lighting fixtures - minimalist pendants
over the island, a modern chandelier in the breakfast nook, and
a whimsical hand-painted black-and-white shade over the sink.
The client has filled the open shelves with a collection of modern
glass and black-and-white ceramics. We added more black at the
island, in the form of new reproduction Phillipe Starck stools
- pieces both comfortable and artistic. To add natural warmth,
we repurposed the client's traditional rosewood buffet as a media
cabinet, and repeated the wood elements in a new breakfast table
surrounded by black repro mid-century armchairs. A vintage custom
acrylic desk topped with rust-coloured stone occupies an inviting
corner, accompanied by her Granny's rocker covered in leopard-print.
In the main living area, the dining room is defined by its low
ceiling. Set against all-white walls, the client's fabulous custom
art deco armoire is the highlight of the dining room. Formerly
hidden away in the master bedroom, it was dismantled and reassembled
by a master carpenter, and is a work of art combining a variety
of exotic wood species. Across the room, against the opposite
wall, we placed an equally well-crafted art deco chest and a
small Regency console for balance. A new contemporary glass table,
surrounded by modern chrome and black armchairs, is a silent
partner, allowing the cabinet to take centre stage. For added
drama, we selected a simple yet sculptural modern chandelier
that almost spans the length of the 8' table.
Beyond the dining area, the ceiling rises dramatically again
to a full 2-storeys. Sconces placed
high up on perimeter walls softly light the room, and illuminate
a series of oversized artworks. Furnishings are low, making the
space feel even higher. Long tufted sofas are covered in neutral
pale grey, while a pair of mod chairs can swivel to take in the
view. The latter pieces are upholstered in a fuchsia pattern
that repeats the kitchen's accent. A selection of bright pillows
-- including a couple made from a vintage designer dress -- adds
even more colourful exuberance. The client found a bold black
and fuchsia rug which was originally intended for another room,
but made its way here. We considered many options for a coffee
table, but in the end we used an industrial black metal parsons-style
table that the client purchased for her first downtown apartment
in the 70's -- a sentimental choice that works. A luminous art
glass vase sits atop an end table that we fashioned from a pair
of vintage acrylic pedestal bases.
The ceiling drops again in the adjoining den, which we partially
closed off from the main living area for coziness and sound absorption.
The client fell in love with a pair of lemon yellow leather chairs
at a showroom, and these were the jumping off point for the bold
use of primary colours contrasted with black. Pulled in from
various areas of her former home are a tufted black modern sofa,
a vintage repro Brno chair, and a floral rug that suits the room
perfectly. The client's pillows from MOMA, featuring images by
Fornasetti and Lichtenstein, add to the retro vibe.
Upstairs, an office loft overlooks the living area, sharing the
cityscapes through the tall windows. For this room, we selected
simple all-white lacquer furniture, with a wall of open shelving
to showcase some of the client's collection. The étagère's
walnut accents add warmth, and balance a vintage gold chest of
drawers passed down from a friend. A brightly coloured geometric
rug brings together all the colours of the client's whimsical
The master bedroom is definitely a feminine "boudoir",
furnished with a curated collection of French antiques from the
client's home -- an elaborate inlaid
armoire, a curvaceous writing desk, a petite settee, a delicate
secretary -- set against a backdrop of white curtains and walls.
To "funkadoodle" it (as the client likes to say), we
commissioned a modern bed upholstered in pale gold snakeskin
vinyl, which she has dressed with a mix of textiles, including
a brightly coloured blanket from India. A couple of her vintage
Persian rugs add more brilliant colour to the space, and just
to mix it up a bit more, an old cowhide grounds the escritoire.
Our mixing of old, new, modern, antique, and vintage has been
a huge success. The client is thrilled to have been able to reuse
so many of the pieces from her former home -- some pieces that
are important and some that are important only to her. Her art
collection is displayed to its full advantage, gracing every
room and hallway. While the layout and function of this apartment
were designed to suit any prospective occupant, it has truly
been made into a home for this particular one and her partner.
And I am happy to report that the vision I had when first seeing
the space has been realized.
|We invite you to
continue exploring our site for design inspiration,
then contact us to
find out how we can provide 'just the thing' for you!