High-Rise Duplex Apartment – NYC

  • High-Rise Duplex Apartment
    In the living room, a bronze torso by Enzo Piazzotta tops an American mahogany center table. A gilded x-framed stool adds a grand geometric note.

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The challenge posed by this 4000 square foot duplex near the United Nations, in one of a pair of towers built by architect Wallace Harrison in 1966, is that its exterior glass walls epitomize modernity, while its apartment interiors are organized into more traditional rooms. The building, once inhabited by the great decorator Billy Baldwin, treads an odd ground between the radiant utopia represented by the U.N. complex and the old-world gentility of nearby Beekman Place.

When client Caroline Hirsch, proprietress of Caroline’s Comedy Club, acquired the duplex apartment on a very high floor, with its incomparable natural light and views, we had to invent a language of architectural detail which would respect the modernity of the building’s skin while creating a greater sense of texture and material richness within the rooms, which, as Hirsch remarked, were “like a blank canvas,” devoid of ornamentation. Our strategy was inspired by looking at a certain early Cubist Picasso painting which evinced architectural clarity yet had a warm, rich palette.

We shifted interior walls and partitions to better correspond to the building’s mullion grid, reinstating and clarifying the classical layout of the public rooms and kitchen on the lower floor, bedrooms above. Then we introduced eight-foot mahogany doors with thick frames and custom nickel hardware; and in the library, oak paneling against which Modernist works of art are hung. The palette, muted, is calibrated from white to ivory to beige to taupe to brown to shades of blue. The 20th century furniture forms a quietly elegant counterpoint to Hirsch’s ambitious art collection, which takes pride of place.