Expect the Unexpected
Unorthodox counsel yields stunning results at a New York condominium by Eve Robinson
Jane Margolies -- Interior Design, 2/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Ask the owners of a luxury apartment to drop their ceiling by 1 foot, and they're likely to blanch. Ask them to lower the ceiling and cover up a south-facing window, and they'll begin to question a designer's sanity.
That double whammy, however, is exactly what Eve Robinson recommended for the expansive living-dining room of a New York condominium—her solutions for two problems. The first was a high ceiling with an overly complicated soffit; the second was a small, oddly placed window in a corner space with floor-to-ceiling glass on almost two entire sides. "Despite the spaciousness and the fabulous views, the apartment needed to be cleaned up and unified," Robinson says. Though the apartment's owners, investment banker Marc Goldberg and his wife, Beth, had reservations about Robinson's proposition, especially the ceiling part, the couple eventually gave her the go-ahead, trusting that these unusual moves would result in the seamless architecture and luxurious detailing that characterize the work produced by Eve Robinson Associates.
A 3,000-square-foot spread on the 44th floor of Cesar Pelli & Associates Architects's Bloomberg Tower, the apartment represents a big change for the Goldbergs. They used to live in a prewar co-op. But that two-bedroom had become too small to accommodate visits from their out-of-town adult children and growing flock of grandkids.
Beth Goldberg had pocketed Robinson's business card after seeing her library at the 2004 Kips Bay Decorator Show House. "I told her, 'Light colors and furniture that won't be too fussy for the grandchildren,'" Beth Goldberg recalls. "She really listened." And there was another thing that she liked about Robinson: her general-contractor husband, who would oversee the project. "I was certain they'd at least communicate with each other," Beth Goldberg continues wryly.
While designer and clients pondered furniture, fabrics, and a palette of caramel, cream, and beige, designer and contractor worked on getting the interior architecture right. Not only did the living area's problematic ceiling and window need to be dealt with, but the master suite also had two closets that called out to be consolidated into one. And the powder room's door, by the entry, simply had to be moved. "You came face to face with it right after stepping through the front door, not exactly a welcoming touch," Robinson says. Her remedy was to wall off that opening and move the doorway round the corner, to the long gallery from which most of the apartment's rooms radiate.
Now the foyer is a jewel box with softly luminous Venetian plaster walls, brass sconces, and a credenza "that looks like it's from a Paris flea market," Robinson says. In addition, the compact space offers a concise introduction to the apartment's decorative themes: sophisticated wall treatments and a mix of antiques, made-to-look-old new furniture, and custom designs. Each piece is given plenty of space, so its form and finish can be thoroughly appreciated.
From the foyer, you move into that long gallery. Since it's windowless, Robinson covered the walls with reflective materials. Vertical panels of white back-painted glass are divided by vertical bronze mullions.
Of the walls in the master bedroom, three are a creamy beige Venetian plaster, while the fourth is upholstered in spring-green linen. The deeper greens of Central Park, seen below, are framed by hemp curtains printed with a rustic-looking floral. "It's a tranquil space," says Beth Goldberg, who loves to read or knit in one of the velvet-upholstered armchairs by the window wall. At the far end of the room, a Robert Longo photograph of a woman in a sheath dress and spike heels adds edge to the serenity.
The atmosphere is more energetic in the living-dining room, which is paneled in cerused oak anyplace that isn't glass. Behind the paneling hides the offending small window, not to mention a wealth of cabinets for the TV, stereo system, and DVD player and drawers for silverware and napkins. Lowering the ceiling to a uniform 10 feet meant that Robinson could tuck in recessed lighting as well as solar shades that descend at the touch of a button. Now that the ceiling is aligned with the top of the windows, the cityscape becomes the wallpaper.
Set in the corner of the dining area, a rectangular Christian Liaigre table might have adult dinner guests around it one weekend, toddlers the next. Everyday meals often take place in the kitchen—designed, like all the kitchens in the building, by Interior Design Hall of Fame member Jacques Grange and left largely intact. Robinson simply added some furnishings, notably a lacy pendant globe by Bertjan Pot, an Eero Saarinen pedestal table, and the same contract-quality stacking chairs she has in her own kitchen.
Next to the kitchen are his-and-hers offices that double as guest rooms. In his, Jonathan Adler's square white tables freshen up a sofa bed that the Goldbergs already owned. Hers features a desk built into a wall of elm cabinetry, plus a crib. So there's always room for family.