A Family Expresses Their Individuality with Color in This Manhattan Condo
WRITTEN BY RONDA SWANEY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT VACCA
“I came out of a supermarket on the Upper West Side, looked up, and saw this beautiful building. I thought to myself, ‘If I had a client in that building, I’m sure they would be wonderful.’ I just had a really good feeling,” says Hilary Unger, owner of New York City–based Perianth Interior Design. The next morning, that thought became reality. A client called seeking a designer for a 5,500-square-foot condo in that very building. “It was unbelievable. They turned out to be a really wonderful family,” says Unger of the couple with two young children.
With only finished floors and walls, the huge space was blank. Despite the empty space, the owners had specific ideas for each room. “They are in the entertainment business and wanted their rooms to be like theater vignettes,” says Unger. Some rooms display more drama than others, but the colors and items in each room were chosen with specific purposes in mind.
The owners knew what they wanted, but relied on Unger to create their vision. Color takes center stage in each room. Like characters in a play, some colors play supporting roles, while others are the stars. “I love color. It just has to be put in the right places,” she explains. “I look at the architecture first, and then consider what feeling we are trying to create. I base my color use on what the client
is looking for.”
The family wanted traditional elegance in the public areas of the home, so the colors are subdued. And the homeowners knew they wanted striped wallpaper in the foyer; if something can be both elegant and fun, this grayish metallic paper accomplishes that task. The paper complements an heirloom chest that sits beneath a gold eagle mirror—another specific request of the homeowners.
The living room and dining room flow together with ease, and neutral walls allow colorful upholstery, artwork, and case goods to shine. A special artifact for the owners—singer Madonna’s first keyboard—holds a place of honor and is flanked by a simple chair and two ornate candlesticks. A faux embossed leather coffee table centers the main seating arrangement, and the persimmon colored chairs from the
foyer appear here, too.
The same technique of repetition is used again as the chairs next to the game table are found in the dining room. Track lights on the royal-blue ceiling shine down into a fishnet fixture that’s dripping with crystals. The decorative finish of the plaster fireplace looks like limestone. Custom cabinets flank the fireplace and are one of Unger’s favorite pieces in the home. “I custom designed them to combine the
qualities of the homeowners” says Unger. “She’s more French and feminine; he’s more biker.” Unger designed the base to blend mahogany with nondirectional blackened steel, which is recessed into the wood. The upper cabinet is made of the same steel with faux leather recessed into the panels. Glass shelves allow light to flow from top to bottom, while chicken wire embedded into the glass sides adds
another custom touch.
An actual theater inspired the high drama of the master bedroom. A theatrical fabric company supplied the red velvet for the drapes and wall covering. Gold braiding and rosettes outline a diamond pattern behind the bed. The coffered ceiling, with hand-embossed leather, provided a hidden wiring channel for the ornate chandelier. Underfoot, walnut floors finish the high-contrast design.
The home office provides the next vignette, which is suitable for a modern-day maharaja. The blue-lacquer cabinets are opened by whimsical knobs. Rich blues, reds, and apricots lend the room a touch of the exotic. The red Ultrasuede sofa hides a pull-out bed, and striped silk curtains frame the view. More muted shades of the office colors find their way into the dressing room. Ivory, peach, and blue comprise a French provincial palette. Hand-rubbed lacquer, detailed carvings, and bronze hardware feel Old World yet feminine.
Bold colors take center stage in the children’s bedrooms as well. A spiral staircase leads to the play loft in the boy’s room that boasts a race car theme. The striped wallpaper contains all the colors of the room—mostly varied shades of orange and blue. The same striped wallpaper is used in the girl’s room, but in more girlish shades of pinks, plums, and greens. This whimsical design was inspired by
the young girl’s request for an enchanted forest.
Many people, including some designers, fear bold colors. Unger was lucky to find fearless clients, and the owners were lucky to find a daring designer. “Not every client can create a project like this,” she says. “But it’s my responsibility as a designer to create something that lives up to their expectations. This project did that.”
Featured in Home by Design.