After my close friend (and longtime client; let's call him "Jake") purchased his Upper East Side condo, he asked me to redesign it. Jake told me he wanted a space that felt like the interior of a yacht: clean lines, rich leathers, exquisite detailing. Once I stepped foot into the traditional penthouse, however, I realized that this home was going to need more than just cabinetry replacement or tile removal.
The apartment had low ceilings, wasted space and, perhaps the biggest misfortune of all, structural oddities that impeded enviable views of Manhattan. It was going to take more than a strong design aesthetic to achieve Jake's vision; the place needed a structural overhaul that ended up taking two years to complete.
We fully gutted the apartment, taking the original two bedrooms down to one. I raised the ceiling on the main floor 12 inches and created uplit coffers around the perimeter, a feat that required moving all the plumbing and electrical lines to the home's perimeter. My team also removed all the conventional sliding glass doors and replaced them with a custom glass system that connected interiors to the outdoor terrace. With anyone else, such a suggestion for a significant engineering undertaking would have prompted questions about my mental state. Jake's response? "Do it."
It was that attitude that made Jake a great client. He went on a lot of shopping trips with me, preferring to see and touch everything. At the beginning of the project, I put a bunch of solid fabric samples and told him to grab the first three or four he liked. Without hesitation or question, he chose a purple, an orange, a brown, and a green. These selections served as the color palette for the design. Such collaboration was unusual (yet refreshing) for a bachelor's apartment; most single men just want to move into their new home with their toothbrush.
Jake and I found design inspiration from books on famous yachts, and we implemented ideas from each of them. And, like those pleasure vessels sailing the seas in luxury, all the elements in Jake's home would be carefully considered and custom made.
Patterns played a big role in the design. For the large 10 'x 15' area rug by Edward Fields in the living room, Jake and I went to the showroom to spy existing patterns for inspiration. After several rounds of receiving and sending back samples, we chose orange and purple swirls with a plush purple lining.
Meanwhile, in the adjacent dining room, a gridded scheme with star-like shapes decorates the chairs. A black-and-white looping pattern appears on the wallcovering and light fixture in the nearby breakfast area, complemented by a banquette outfitted in abstract pattern. Those vistas also come to life in the kitchen, where the painted glass backsplash reflects the neighboring architecture.
Spaces throughout the home convey an inherent warmth. The light plastered within the living room ceiling takes the place of the trim so that the lighting illuminates outward. This unique feature softens the light's effect and brings out the richness of materials such as the floors made of Afromosia, a rarely used African wood similar to oak in terms of hardness. I custom dyed the sofas in shagreen to harmonize with the flooring. Suede wallcoverings and a leather ceiling complete the look throughout the entire first floor.
Jake knew he'd be using his space for entertaining. To that end, I designed the living and dining area to fit large groups very comfortably. The kitchen also is built to cook for a crowd, with a Miele Induction cooktop and oven, Wolf microwave drawer unit (which also helps save space on the limestone countertops) and Sub-Zero refrigeration. On the spacious terrace, a glass wall with LED lights creates a glowing space for guests.
In order to maximize space on the second floor, I opened up the landing to create a circular area and installed a small sitting area. Outfitted in horsehair wallcoverings, the landing also features custom closets that were measured to see how much space Jake needed to hang his wardrobe.
In order to access the large amount of wasted space in the master bath, I reversed the layout and created a cleaner, more linear room where Carrara marble takes center stage. Two stairs elevate the master bedroom to offer better city views, while raised ceilings help the room feel like a canopy floating above New York. A sleek fireplace and an elegant wool wallcovering warm up the space. This cozy room also serves as Jake's favorite space, thanks to the desk and chair that afford him spectacular city views while he works.
Throughout the entire home, I implemented understated touches to create a truly special environment. On each door, for instance, I designed hinges and side plates subtly engraved with Jake's initials back to back. Such unexpected elements, combined with opulent materials and one-of-a-kind pieces, create the yacht-inspired interiors that Jake had envisioned for his penthouse from the very start.