For this Manhattan restaurateur, a move downtown meant having the chance to create a space all her own--without the help of an interior designer. Trusting her instincts, while keeping the needs of her children front and center, Ali Cayne embarks on a journey of renovation and self-exploration.
photographs by Brittany Ambridge text by Brittany S. Chevalier interior design by Ali Cayne
Ali Cayne--founder of New York City's Haven's Kitchen, a restaurant, event space, and cooking school specializing in seasonal, sustainable food--never does anything by halves. Not when it comes to running her restaurant or raising her five children, and not when it came to renovating her new West Village townhouse. Last year, to close the gap between her family and professional lives, and to lessen her carbon footprint, Cayne decided to move downtown. "Commuting back and forth from the Upper East Side, I realized I was missing important things at home or at work, and I wanted to integrate those two pieces of my life," she says. "Plus, I really love the West Village." Although it had "amazing bones," her new house required considerable efforts to transform it into the warm, inviting Manhattan home it is today. Working alongside her architect, Cayne selected everything--each finish, paint color, and piece of furniture--without the help of an interior decorator. "I don't have a background in design," she says, "but I do know what I like."
When Cayne began this project last fall, she knew exactly what she wanted, from the low George Smith sofas and the open kitchen shelving to the finish of the flooring. "I had a leg of a stool from my old house that I literally walked around with for days because it was exactly the floor color I wanted," she says. The one missing piece that she sought out for months--until a snowy day at a Paris flea market--was a chandelier for the living room. After hours of searching the stalls, she finally spotted a fixture hidden around a corner. "For a while, I'd felt so close to finding the right one," she says. "But when I found this chandelier, I realized I'd never even been close. This one is perfect."