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This Airy Manhattan Living Room Floats Above the Tree-Lined Streets

Words by Gabrielle Savoie
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Photo by Joshua McHugh

One thing you can’t change in a Manhattan apartment is the footprint (unless you’re willing to buy out the neighbors).

Beyond the “location, location, location” mantra, generous proportions often come second on Manhattan’s list of real estate priorities. This classic Upper West Side pre-war building had both. Located on scenic West End Avenue, just a block from Riverside Park, this former schoolhouse—a pristine example of the Beaux-Arts architecture movement—had recently been redeveloped into thoughtful and spacious residences—with extra-high 13-foot ceilings.

“The floorplans are of a gracious scale, the apartments are filled with light, and the detailing is impeccable,” says interior designer Charlie Ferrer, who was tasked with furnishing one of the residences for a young couple with children looking to entertain and begin collecting art and design. The result: an airy cloud-like space in shades of soft grays, blues, and creams that seem to float above the tree-lined streets. Here’s how the Expert tackled this room on an expedited timeline.

The project: A classic light-filled pre-war NYC apartment

The location: the Upper West Side of Manhattan near Riverside Park

The room: A living room

The client: A young family with two children.

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Photo by Joshua McHugh

Photo by Joshua McHugh

Why do you think this space works so well?

The volumes, proportions, and flow of the rooms make it feel less like an apartment and more like a home, which is exactly what we aimed to achieve.

What was the brief for this room? How did it need to function for the homeowner?

The objective was to take the best of what makes a classic uptown lifestyle and to attune it for a contemporary family. The clients are a young couple with children. Sharing the home with guests, friends, and family is a huge part of their lives so the apartment could not be too fragile or precious as carefree entertaining is so important to them.

A conversation among interesting design and art was also appealing to them—the idea of a ‘collected’ home that’s curated but not too decorated or over-designed. The use of vintage pieces in the newly-renovated spaces softens and warms them up, giving the apartment an inviting nonchalance.

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Photo by Joshua McHugh

What was your inspiration jumping-off point?

The architectural shell has a great deal of integrity. The simplified classical detailing that runs throughout is an ideal background on which to build an interior story and create a home that bridges the gap between the classical and the modern.

What piece do you think anchors this space?

That would be the vintage ‘Slipper Chair’ by Kappa from the seventies with stainless steel side panels. I upholstered it myself with a bouclé wool fabric from Rogers & Goffigon. I really love this chair! The silvery blue sofa in the corner of the living room is vintage as well and complements it perfectly. It is the ‘Triennale’ model by Marco Zanuso from the sixties. Its architectural curve wraps that corner perfectly.

Biggest splurge and steal in the room: 

The biggest splurge were the vintage chandeliers from Ferrer-Boyer Gallery and the best steal was the ALT For Living broadloom matting.

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Photo by Joshua McHugh

Photo by Joshua McHugh

Biggest challenge you had when designing this space:

The biggest challenge of this project was the expedited timescale. The clients required installation within eight months when, normally, a job of this scope would require fourteen to eighteen months to develop and produce. In order to deliver everything so fast, they had to grant me a high level of autonomy, once the overall concept was approved, to make decisions on their behalf. There was a great deal of trust! Trust is always a key ingredient to success in my work. 

How would you describe the vibe of this space?

A generous range of shapes, textures, and colors compliment the historical context of the building, achieving a level of grandness while keeping the vibe liveable, fresh and chic.

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