Two Designers Bring California Calm to a West Village Apartment

Two Designers Bring California Calm to a West Village Apartment

By Kelly Dawson
When Becky and Jake Shea of Becky Shea Design were tasked with giving a nondescript “white box” personality, they looked to blend California cool with New York City edge.

There were three reasons why this West Village apartment was a design project Becky and Jake Shea couldn't refuse. Set high above the cacophony of New York City traffic in a highly desirable apartment complex on Charles Street, the original property already hinted at its potential. It featured floor-to-ceiling windows on half a floor, which opened it all to classic views of the Hudson River. 

"Natural light permeated throughout the space, which is a rarity in the city," Becky says. 

"The owner loves walnut and wanted something really warm and inviting that didn't feel rustic," Becky says. "She has a modern edge to her."

But despite its sights, the home didn't have much else going for it. "To put it bluntly, the space looked soulless," she remembers. "It was essentially a move-in ready white box." The owner asked if Becky and Jake could see the blank walls as a canvas for casual elegance, where sunny California style could mix with New York City cool. This meant that the duo would create with a neutral palette, which would embrace all that natural light as a backdrop for warm textures and casual colors. 

Restoration Hardware's Gramercy Console Table sits in the entryway above a custom mohair rug by Woven. The leather vase is by Jenni Kayne. 

"Our style, fortunately, worked with the existing bones," Becky says. "This made it super easy for us to reimagine each room and make it feel more like a home." 

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"It's easy to get caught up in trendy design, and that's a trap that will usually lead to you wishing you 'hadn't done that' a few years down the line," Becky says. "If you're looking to create a space that will stand the test of time, stick with a neutral color palette and natural materials." The Forchette 12 chandelier was custom-made by Materia. 

Another aspect that made this project easier to take on was that Becky and Jake think of the owner as a good friend and mentor. She's an executive vice president and chief operating officer at a well-known real estate company, and the pair were already working with her on a separate construction project in the same neighborhood. They trusted her insights, and she respected their approach. The three agreed on a palette of cream, black, gray, and blue—a mix of both coasts—to permeate the three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths. This would achieve an overall calming effect, which would then be layered with wood accents, soft leather, and rich marble details. 

A view of the open-plan living and dining areas.

"It was really important to us to have cohesion across each room, but still maintain a certain level of independence from one another," Becky continues. "We did this by using similar mixed mediums, but with their own unique color story." 

A custom-made Nichetto bed by De La Espada sits beside a leather chair by Amber Lewis in the master bedroom. A "Juicy Jute Grasscloth" wall covering by Phillip Jeffries adds more dimension to the blue room, which Becky enjoyed making slightly darker from the other spaces. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge in this partnership was figuring out exactly what to do with the ceiling. It's solid concrete, the one form of texture in the white box, and the team couldn't add more fixtures to it. In order to bring this material into the fold, most of the rooms are painted in a complementary gray. And the fixtures that could be exchanged were traded in for ones with shape and personality. 

The bathroom's dark wood features mirror those in the kitchen, which is in keeping with Shea's goal to have a cohesive palette throughout. 

Finally, there's one more reason why Becky and Jake agreed to work on this project: The home also includes a 400-square-foot outdoor space. "The views are out of this world," Becky says. "It was so nice to have a space with nature incorporated into it. When you step outside, you're high enough from the hustle and bustle that you can hear birds chirping." Once again the team relied on the same color palette to extend the home outside, completing the indoor/outdoor connection often seen in California properties. "It brings in that vibe," she adds. 

A Raleigh bed by Design Within Reach anchors the guest bedroom, which also features art by Kimmy Quillin and Carrie Crawford sourced at Uprise. 

The home was completed last September, and Becky feels as though the owner has a timeless address that can be enjoyed for years to come. Whether that's because of the property's location, her relationship with the Sheas, or her coveted outdoor space is up to her—but maybe it can be a result of all three. "She feels a sense of calm when she gets home," Becky says.  

The 400-square-foot outdoor space, a rarity in New York City, was designed to feel like a California oasis. "It's the perfect spot to kick back and entertain," Becky says. 

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