A Manhattan couple reworks a family home into a chic residence designed for entertaining.
hen a couple on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was looking to convert their prewar condominium overlooking the Hudson River from a three-bedroom “family” residence into a more elegant space for entertaining their well-rounded social circle, they took the notion of an empty nest quite seriously, stripping their Riverside Drive residence down to the studs. While designer Robin Baron kept the footprint largely intact, she made significant alterations to achieve the couple’s objective, including moving a door to fashion a more dramatic entry in the master bedroom, creating more communal seating areas, and converting the children’s former bedrooms into flexible spaces.
Baron reclaimed every inch of ceiling height and width in the kitchen and further expanded it by stealing a little space from the grand foyer. She also converted the staff quarters into an open-layout media room, and revealed the floor joists overhead to form top-hat ceilings—keeping the newly added central-air ductwork tucked away in soffits. “They wanted to modernize and have a fresh look, but they didn’t want it to be completely contemporary in feel,” Baron says. She reworked the residence’s former English country look—a dizzying array of patterns, florals, and decorative accessories—into a more sophisticated and modern aesthetic, with neutral tones and clean lines.
For Baron, contemporary and comfortable are not mutually exclusive; a thoughtful blend of textures and luxurious fibers creates a space that feels equal parts chic and conducive to relaxed family downtime. “You don’t want anything to be so precious that you’re afraid to put your feet up or eat a pizza on the sofa while watching TV,” she says. The living room was designed to cultivate conversation, with unified seating—the sofa was made in Baron’s studio—stationed around a vintage glass table that acts as a windowpane for the hand-carded, pot-dyed, and hand-spun Tibetan wool rug by Stark Carpet. Late-20th-century Venini Italian wall sconces flank the Hearth Cabinet fireplace, with its limestone surround that adds warmth to the room’s look. Commissioned works from Teters Art convey broad brushstrokes of modernism.
The living room flows into the dining room, connected by views of the Hudson. The bespoke lacquered-goatskin-topped dining table was designed by Baron and surrounded by Ruhlmanesque chairs by Dessin Fournir. The contemporary pieces are balanced with classic ones, such as the vintage Macassar-ebony sideboard and circa-1960 French moderne sconces.
The residence’s kitchen was a focal point of the renovation, blending the couple’s desire for gorgeous form with high-tech function to accommodate the husband’s passion for cooking. Cabinets from Smallbone’s Macassar collection evoke famed British architect and collector John Soane’s affinity for boiling down classical elements to their structural essentials. Display cupboards take style cues from apothecary cabinets, and panels of accent mirrors infuse the space with light. Geometric recessed pulls in polished nickel add edge, complementing the Miele steam oven, Wolf range, and Sub-Zero fridge. Baron used Caesarstone on the counters in the main part of the kitchen and natural stone with horizontal veining for the backsplash. “It’s important to mix materials to make things look a little less stamped out,” she says. The walnut-topped island makes a counterpoint to the oak floors throughout and houses a microwave drawer to maintain the cabinetry’s clean lines.
In redesigning the former children’s rooms, Baron factored in their summer visits: One bedroom doubles as an office with a sofa that converts to a queen-size bed, and the other serves as a den when bunk beds are tucked away into a wall cabinet. A handwoven rug by J. D. Staron, custom window treatments made with Robert Allen’s Artigiano fabric, and sleek acrylic paintings from Houston artist Michelle Williams’s famed Cut series continue the elegant updates seen throughout the rest of the home.
In the master bedroom and bath, Baron added more bespoke touches with a custom white-onyx-topped vanity in the master bath and a chair upholstered in a patterned velvet from Corragio that she positioned near the newly built wall of closets. “We didn’t want it to look like just a closet,” she says, “so we used curved molding details with Hines faux-alligator vinyl insets.” Such touches further enhance the chic design that transforms the couple’s empty nest into a showpiece where the interiors are as compelling as the river views beyond the walls.
Robin Baron Design, 212.262.1110 (robinbarondesign.com)