Luminous Apartment in a Historic NYC Building

Luminous Apartment in a Historic NYC Building

By Alex Ronan
A family of four makes a piece of New York history home.

Bart, the resident of this New York City house, loves to cook, but in his old home, that often meant spending a few hours alone in the kitchen, away from his family. So when he and his wife, Regina, purchased a 2,200-square-foot apartment in 2013, they knew they wanted an open floor plan. The block-long, cast-iron building was built in 1887, and while original details remained, the apartment had recently been subjected to rather bland renovations. The couple called on Jane Stageberg of Bade Stageberg Cox (BSC) to help them design a home to meet the needs of a modern family while paying tribute to the building’s history.

“When we bought it, the apartment felt rather uninspired and confined, but it had such great potential,” resident Bart says. The building, on Sixth Avenue, is part of the Ladies' Mile Historic District, which once housed the city’s most famous department stores. The building was commissioned by Irish merchant Hugh O’Neill to house his dry-goods emporium. It now houses a mix of commerce and condos.

"We immediately began to play around with ideas of enclosure," Stageberg says, adding, "We worked to maintain functionality while engineering openness throughout." The central living space holds two seating areas and a large dining table, so BSC used the apartment’s column grid and strong geometry to create distinct zones. The formal seating area is centered in the recessed rotunda; a sectional fits neatly in a corner bay. The dining area works as a natural buffer between the living room and kitchen. The kitchen features a custom screen of powder-coated metal and wood designed by BSC.

“I view lighting as a form of sculpture,” Bart says. He’s collected lighting fixtures for years and worked with Stageberg to find prime locations for them during the renovation. The coil pendant is vintage; Phillippe Starck designed the gun-inspired floor lamp. The B&B Italia Arne Sofa faces chairs by Poul Kjaerholm. The rug is by Nanimarquina and adds a bit of color to an otherwise cool palette of grays and blues.

The architects paid fastidious attention to the way the use of the space would change over time. A closet-space by the entrance was measured to accommodate a stroller; one day it’ll house sports equipment and outdoor toys. Bienstock was concerned two bedrooms wouldn’t be sufficient. With a transom window to bring light into the hallway and some strategic closet placement, Stageberg turned the original two bedrooms into three. Just after the family moved in, their second child was born.

The living room opens to the dining room, which abuts the kitchen and home office. The walnut dining table, pictured here with an extension leaf in place, was designed by BSC. “The family needed a table that extends for large family dinners, but didn’t feel too formal for everyday use,” Stageberg explains, adding, “Most meals happen around the broader end, but the table can expand to seat up to fourteen.” The dining chairs are Saarinen and the light fixture above the table is from FLOS.

BSC designed suspended powder-coated and walnut open shelves to demarcate the kitchen from the rest of the living space. The detailing on the cast-iron columns inspired the perforated pattern of the semi-transparent screens.

The open shelving reaches to the apartment’s 13-foot ceilings, bringing the eye’s attention upwards. Built-in furniture, like the desk Bart works at, was designed throughout the apartment. The couple imagine the desk will be taken over by their children once they’re old enough to do homework. “The design of the space allows us to spend time together, even when we’re doing different things,” Bart says, of the open floor plan.

A serrated transom window above the closet in the children’s room floods the hallway with natural light. “By moving some closets and shrinking the size of the bedrooms, we were able to get three bedrooms out of two without taking away any floor space from the central living area,” Stageberg says. The closets feature extensive built-ins and the ceiling height helps the smaller rooms feel expansive.

The screens and shelving from the kitchen area repeat in the master bedroom, filtering light to the closet area, through which the master bedroom is accessed. The dresser was designed by BSC.


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