A 19th-Century Apartment in Manhattan Gets a Kid-Friendly Upgrade
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A 19th-Century Apartment in Manhattan Gets a Kid-Friendly Upgrade

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By Lauren Jones
Built in 1885, this Midtown residence has been restored and revitalized with dashes of color and whimsical, kid-oriented spaces.

An opulent example of American Renaissance architecture, the Osborne Building on 57th Street in Midtown, Manhattan, is a New York City landmark. The lobby features tiled mosaic flooring; a red, blue, and gold-leaf ceiling and sculptures by Augustus Saint-Gaudens; an enchanting staircase on either side; and four apartments per floor supported by load-bearing, masonry walls. It was once home to composer Leonard Bernstein, singer Bobby Short, and more recently, actress Jessica Chastain—and its newest residents include a family a four. Personal friends with renowned architect Chris Fogarty, cofounding partner of Fogarty Finger Architects, they relied on him and his team to remodel their historic floor plan into an airy and colorful modern home. 

As two distinctive spaces—room to rest, and room to entertain—the living room provides differing experiences for the family. "The piece de resistance is the pink sofa," designer Laura Flam says. "It doesn't feel too big, and its curves have this lightness that doesn't take over the room." The pendant light was one of a small run, one of only 10 produced, that the team had powder-coated in a deep blue color. The silk rug is from Studio Four NYC and "plays off the ornate wallpaper in the adjoining dining room," she adds.  

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"The clients are very old friends of mine," Chris Fogarty says. "Over the years they had been looking at different places. The husband wanted to be in Brooklyn, but his wife’s family lived near 57th Street, and she didn’t want to move." 

Thankfully, they came across a home that they’d ultimately both love: a 3,000-square-foot, four-bed, three-bath with plenty of play space for their two young children. But the home was painted in a dark purple tone, partition walls blocked natural light, and original features were in need of very specific updates. 

For the kitchen, Fogarty went with a very unique material and used zinc for the island. "It's an old-fashioned material used in many old kitchens that is slightly soft," he says. "You can cut on it, and it rubs away and becomes part of the patina." 

Fogarty and his team got to work, calling in New York–based Reunion Goods & Services to do the interiors and further establish a compromise between the husband and wife’s differing aesthetics. 

"He wanted traditional with a twist, while she wanted light and fresh," Fogarty says. "Working with Reunion was fantastic because it allowed us to solely focus on the architecture and allowed the couple to feel comfortable and navigate through what they wanted."

The living room, which was once a unsavory purple tone, is the room with the most natural light. The ceilings are 15 feet tall, and it is the perfect location for the split living area. Originally built as the main entertaining space of the home, it's also the largest room. "The idea was that people living here would've had houses elsewhere and not necessarily live here year-round. They would come here to entertain," Fogarty says.

One of the first modern-day conveniences Fogarty and his team established was central air conditioning, but it was quite the undertaking. 

"Going through this huge solid brick wall is hard to do, and we tried to make it invisible as well," he says. 

The foyer was decorated simply with a stainless-steel bench, vintage rug, and vintage light fixture. "The hand-blown glass fixture has this beautiful, iridescent quality at different angles," Flam says.  "It's enough to offset the room without cluttering it."

To bring in more natural light, they removed some of the non-load-bearing partition walls between rooms and replaced the entryway medallions with glass.

Other tasks included repairing and updating the original flooring and matching the original millwork, something which Fogarty believes wouldn’t have been possible without their amazing contractor. 

This entire doorway was fabricated by the contractors—a true labor of love to match the rest of the millwork of the home. 

"The clients had found these guys that had previously done three or four other apartments in the building and had worked with this type of millwork before," he says. 

And when it came to the look of the family’s new home, Reunion’s Laura Flam created a serene, yet adventurous look that made the entire family happy. "We wanted it to be colorful, but not over-the-top, and provide places where the eye can rest," she says.

The homeowners wanted to be able to display some of their art collection, which includes pieces by Eric Cahan from his Sky Series and muralist Rebekah Maysles. 

The dining room is for the kids with funky blue and red chairs, gold Ellie Kishimoto wallpaper that is reminiscent of the ornate wallpaper that may existed in this home in the 19th century, and a large table. The fireplace, which is original, was recovered in marble. 

The living room, originally two separate rooms, is a prime example of playing off traditional details while adding in playful and unexpected pieces. Flam created a cozy reading nook anchored by a day bed and musical instruments as well as a more established area so "one could sit around and look the architecture." The light pink sofa is a quirky sculptural element, while the neutral area rug and white walls balance the palette. 

Since the living room is light and airy, the dining room was a spot where Flam designed with the kids in mind. 

The powder bath also has a touch of whimsy with another pattern from Ellie Kishimoto, an Italian Fantini faucet in a custom powder-coat ,and white subway ceramic tiles. 

"[The clients] thought about their children a lot," she says. "They wanted their kids’ friends to come over after school, and to have a space for them to do their homework at the dining room table. They aren’t the type of family that eats formal meals, so this room was really a place where we could have some fun." 

In the dining room, as well as one of the bathrooms, Flam went for Ellie Kishimoto wallpaper: "She is a textile designer who also does a line of wallpaper that is fun, bright, and cheerful."

The kitchen counters are a glazed lava stone that is incredibly durable and antimicrobial from Pyrolab. "The glazes can be so saturated, and making it dark gray felt really clean and bright in this room," Flam says. "We used a simple tile as the backsplash, a hand-made zinc island, and unearthed beautiful, cobalt blue tile around the fireplace," she says. The rest of the fireplace is finished with green-and-blue Moroccan tile and pendants from an old Czech factory.  

Flam left the kitchen neutral with zinc countertops, white millwork, and updated flooring; a cobalt blue stove from La Cornue echoes the tile of the fireplace. 

"We researched old bars in Hell’s Kitchen and used those photos to come up with the actual design," Fogarty adds. 

In the foyer, the star is the vintage Moroccan rug and a vintage hand-blown glass fixture from Murano, Italy. The foyer provides a comfortable, colorful entry space that hints at the bold choices Flam and Fogarty made in the home. 

While the home is mainly one floor, the architect of the building, James E. Ware, added a step-down in the back of the home. This is where the bedrooms and bathrooms are located, and they are smaller rooms with nine-foot ceilings.

Moving into the bedrooms, which are located toward the back of the apartment and feel more intimate with lower ceiling heights, Flam once again prioritized color and personality.

"The children’s playroom can host sleepovers," she says. "Because their rooms were small, we wanted to give them ample space to exist outside them." 

The playroom is sound-proofed and features a rainbow of color. "We built the bunks the height of the apartment allowed and customized them to maximize the fun," she says. "Behind the beds there's this wallpaper, I See You by Cavern Home—it's a wallpaper you can create faces on, so the kids are encouraged to draw on the walls." The bedding textile is from Studio Four NYC.

A climbing wall and monkey bars ensure that the kids have plenty of space to goof off.

The playroom is a childhood dream come true. There’s a climbing wall, a basketball hoop, wallpaper to draw on, and triple bunk beds—bringing playfulness and functionality into a traditional space, as seen throughout the sophisticated home.

More by Fogarty Finger Architects: A Historic Propeller Factory Is Converted Into a Gorgeous Home

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Chris Fogarty, Fogarty Finger Architects  / @fogartyfinger

Interior Designer: Laura Flam, Reunion Goods and Services