MIDTOWN EAST – NYC
High-Rise Duplex Apartment
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.
At the foot of the dramatically curving staircase, carpeted in velvety cut pile, a massive torso by Rodin signals the superlative array of modern art collected by Hirsch.
In the entry, a mirror above the ebonized console presents an alluring reflection of the winding staircase. On the console, an eclectic selection of small fine and decorative art works includes an Antique Greek head and a 20th century glass lamp.
In another corner of the living room, the furniture is assertively midcentury modern. The splendid, massive library table is 1940s French, of limed oak, complemented by Russell side chairs from Dessin Fournir, upholstered in olive leather. A strong sculptural note is architects Herzog & de Meuron’s solid birch “Hocker” stool, a contemporary classic which echoes the forms of African art.
A 1955 painting by Joan Mitchell in a gilded frame hangs above the mantelpiece.
Art Deco ceramics, and glass in tones of deep chocolate and burnt orange, decorate an ebonized console.
In the dining room, 1930s Jules Leleu chairs circle a custom oval table. The French forties bronze chandelier complements a Max Ernst figure, also in bronze; the painting is Ross Bleckner’s Flow and Return (2001).
"Glenn’s broad knowledge of architecture, interior design and lifestyle were immensely important to a successful and enduring project. His focus on quality, understatement and comfort has created a gracious & livable home."
A sparkling view of the United Nations–one of many spectacular views in this duplex–enlivens a quiet workspace with desk and chairs.
A highly polished library table is accompanied by a round-seated Biedermeier chair and a biomorphic 1950s table lamp.