Carnegie Hill Apartment 

This Carnegie Hill residence is located in a handsome 12-story building erected in 1925. It is architecturally influenced by the Belle Époque, neo-classical styles of the turn of the century. The owners came to us with a very specific mandate for the gut renovation of this 2600 square foot apartment. The final result had to be “light, aerie, restrained, uncluttered, peaceful, appropriate to the “Pre-War” context and grown-up without becoming dowdy and predictable”. She hoped that this mandate could be balanced with an “atmosphere of creativity” and “just a little bit of luxury”. His first impulse was to paint the whole apartment white, a new thing for them. We stepped in and helped them understand that color needn’t be abandoned to be light but not cloyingly pastel and thus our year long collaboration began.

Because we see our projects as a form of portraiture of our clients, we took our first queue, for the “Pre-War”, mandate from the building generally and its 1925 provenance. Architecturally the new interior is influenced by the work of John Soane, an English architect practicing during the Belle Époque. His architecture is distinguished by clean lines, massing of simple form, decisive detailing, careful proportions and skilful use of light. The influence of his work on our project can be seen in the simple custom trim, of a single profile, that traces about as the base board, door casing, and crown. His influence can also be seen in the attenuated proportions, the layering of small spaces to create the illusion of depth and the careful centering of rooms.  

The light and aerie colors that shift tonally throughout the apartment and the soft tone of the bleached walnut floors belong to the distinctly American romantic tradition of the Fin de siècle as exemplified by the Hudson Valley painters. In particular we looked to the iconoclastic painter, Martin Johnson Heade, for inspiration. A prolific American painter, he is known for his salt marsh landscapes, portraits of tropical birds, and the still life. He is variably described as a Luminist, a movement “characterized by effects of light in landscapes ... Luminist landscapes emphasize tranquility, and often depict calm, reflective water and a soft, hazy sky”.

Decoratively we turned to the Callot Soeurs for inspiration, historically among the first of the fashion houses in Paris. It was operated by the four Callot sisters all of whom apprenticed by their mother, a lace maker. Callot Soeurs clothing was known for its exotic detail and decorative motifs often drawn from flora and fauna. They were among the first designers to use gold lamé to make dresses. In this residence the gold fixtures, the upholstery shapes, the custom Forte Street Studio carpet, the Baguès chandeliers, the gold leaf, the white pony skin, the rabbit fur pillows, the Osborne & Little hand painted silk fabric with Lilies and the aged silk velvets all owe a debt to the sisters and their era.