Where there’s peeling paint, dim lighting, banged-up flooring, and little-to-no natural light, there’s potential. A pair of empty nesters saw no shortage of it in this 2,500-square-foot pre-war apartment on the Upper West Side in New York City. They’d long dreamt of a retirement pied-a-terre and, in this one, hoped to translate the cozy, homey aesthetic of their New Jersey farm to a Manhattan co-op.
Enter New York-based interior designer Ariel Okin, a House Beautiful Next Wave designer, who aimed to “pack a big punch with textiles and finishes so that every corner of the two-bedroom, two-bath felt considered and layered,” explains Okin.
Through a gut renovation of the 1930s-era property, Okin added in period-specific millwork; reconsidered the lighting plan to usher in plenty of natural light; swathed the space with a fresh coat of paint; and layered in heritage fabrics from brands like Soane Britain and Schumacher to create what Okin describes as a “happy environment” for the couple.
“The inspiration was a metropolitan take on the welcoming and warm atmosphere of the horse farm they primarily live on in New Jersey,” says the designer. “The client had a lot of great inherited artwork, like original maps and oil paintings, that we built upon with beautiful fabrics.”
Despite a few hiccups along the way—think an accidental swap of paint colors in the two bedrooms and, ahem, Covid—Okin and her team managed to succeed in creating a city-meets-country residence that effortlessly blends form and function.
“That all made it even more satisfying when we saw it completed and to see the owners loving it in the end,” says Okin.
Okin says her favorite space in the apartment is the living room, which is bathed in natural light post a gut renovation. Instead of ripping out the existing built-in, Okin reconsidered the unit to save money. She repainted the millwork in a dark green Farrow & Ball color “to give it a little pop” and to “tie in the living room fabric schemes.”
Okin added playful touches to classic pieces with fringe, tassels, and scalloped edges. “The breakfast nook has a great deep navy velvet banquette,” says Okin. “We repeat the Soane pattern on the windows in the pillows with a hearty Schumacher check to balance it out.”
“Light and airy,” says Okin, the owner’s room features a Colefax & Fowler sheer fabric repeated myriad times throughout.
“The guest bedroom, for the client’s two sons to crash, has a great mix of Sister Parish patterns and one-of-a-kind hand-painted items,” says Okin, citing the faux tortoise stacking tables from KRB, which is “one of our absolute favorite places to shop for clients in the city.”
Q & A
House Beautiful: What’s the client like, and what were they looking for?
Ariel Okin: This apartment is a pied-a-terre for a retired couple with grown children. It was always a dream of theirs to have a place in the city to stay when they came in to see a show or have dinner with friends.
HB: What was the apartment like before?
AO: The apartment needed a lot of love. The paint was peeling, the floors were banged up, and there was little to no natural or wired lighting in the apartment. And it was dimly lit, had parquet flooring, and all of the original moldings had been stripped away by the previous owner. But it had a generous living area and a kitchen nook for entertaining or reading the paper over breakfast.
HB: Where did the majority of the budget go?
AO: Fabrics! This client really appreciates and understands the importance of beautiful patterns and good upholstery work, and she really invested in those fabrics, which shows in the overall outcome, I think.
HB: What were some challenges along the way?
We worked with a painting vendor on this project who we hadn’t worked with before and, by accident, the paint colors in the bedrooms got switched. That was a ‘fun’ hiccup—that was resolved within 24 hours! We also kicked off this project about two weeks before Covid hit—in early March 2020—so the process of getting this apartment completed was, needless to say, challenging and unique.