Everything In Its Place
Kitty Hawks and her husband's larger New York apartment proves the perfect home for their many furnishings collected over decades
Jane Margolies -- Interior Design, 1/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Just a day and a half into her husband's retirement, Interior Design Hall of Fame member Kitty Hawks realized their New York apartment wasn't going to cut it. Hawks herself has for the most part given up design work, except for an occasional redo for a long-time client, and was accustomed to having the run of the couple's abode. But it wasn't configured for two stay-at-homes to go about their business in privacy, let alone hold phone conversations out of earshot of each other. The solution was a larger apartment—specifically, this 1,500-square-foot classic six on the 11th floor of a prewar building—with two bedrooms and bathrooms, panoramic views, and, perhaps most importantly, doors that close. "There's a lot to be said for a conventional layout," Hawks notes.
The other factor that attracted Hawks was that the apartment didn't need a complete overhaul. Serving on the boards of the Municipal Art Society, the Design Trust for Public Space, and the Humane Society and teaching at Parsons the New School for Design, her days are rife with meetings and class preparation. That means no idle hours to wait for bathroom fittings to be delivered or the contractor to take twice as long as he was supposed to. Nor is she interested in scouring the D&D Building. "I'm past that," said Hawks, whose namesake design firm operated for more than two decades.
Her plan was to make use of furniture and artwork from her previous apartment. But it wasn't simply a matter of relocating all her possessions here, either. The plumbing and electrical systems needed to be upgraded and there were moldings to add to plain-Jane ceiling beams and a couple of feet to appropriate from the pantry so that Hawks could have, for the first time in her life, a city kitchen that wasn't a skinny galley.
But, yes, her belongings fell rather easily into place in the new residence. Hawks attributes this to a consistency of taste over time: Items from disparate countries and periods, purchased at different points in her life, all end up harmonizing. "If your point of view is strong and inclusive, you find things in any culture," says Hawks, who inherited a good eye from her mother, fashion icon Slim Keith, and further honed it in architecture school and on the job.
Which is why, in the entry hall, its walls painted smoked salmon, a tall Chinese cabinet, an Italian pendant fixture, and a tufted English ottoman, all possessing strong silhouettes, keep such affable company. Indeed the entry clues visitors to the designer's sensibility, which leans toward Asian and mid-century design and encompasses eccentric lighting, eclectic art, and animal motifs. (Guests get a preview of the aesthetic in the floor's shared elevator vestibule, which Hawks redecorated with an antique Chinese wooden dog, a Jens Risom console, and a pendant fixture by Isamu Noguchi.)
The entry hall is also the hub of the apartment, which is rectangular in plan but feels like a wheel, with spokes radiating from the center axis. To the left is the living room, where the seating, including sofas by Barbara Barry and John Saladino, is upholstered in neutrals, with subtle pattern showing up in the Spanish art deco rug and brocadelike curtains. It takes a moment to notice the faint stencilling that enlivens the walls—it registers on an almost subconscious level. The swirls and curlicues, which look like they might have escaped from the curtain fabric, were rendered by Dean Barger, who also stenciled the peacock-feather border on the new mantel. "I like giving leeway to people to do what they do best," says Hawks, who has been working with Barger for years. "That way everything doesn't match so perfectly."
The next spoke on the hall's wheel is the carpeted wing of bedrooms. The smaller of the two is the study of Larry Lederman, Hawks's husband, where he pursues his hobby of photography. (The designer's own desk is tucked into a corner of the living room.) Down a mirrored hall, the master bedroom is a cocoon. The iron bed, purchased on the Internet, is softened with a vintage Mariano Fortuny quilt and pillows covered with antique French chintz. Over the bed hangs a treasured piece of English 19th-century stump work that belonged to Hawks's mother.
The mood is more expansive—and modern—in the dining room, to the right of the hall, where windows frame views of water towers and rooftops that turn golden at day's end. French casino chairs from the 1930's surround a marble-topped Florence Knoll table. Swimming overhead is Zahara Schatz's stingraylike pendant fixture, its acrylic curves embedded with scraps of wire and sheet metal. Like the room's iron wall sconces, the ceiling fixture was, astonishingly, purchased sight unseen. "Am I making a mistake," Hawks recalls anxiously asking the auction-house employee over the phone. No, Ms. Hawks, you were not.
Project Team Alan Orenbuch Architect: Architect of Record. Arete Group: General Contractor. Product sources from front Through Center44: Credenza (Living Room). Through Mark Mcdonald: Bowl (Living Room), Table Lamp (Entry Hall). Venini Through Center44: Pendant Fixture (Entry Hall). Through JMW Gallery: Cabinet. Through Darius Antique & Decorative Rugs: Rug (Entry Hall), Rugs (Dining Room, Living Room). Through T.J. Antorino Antiques and Design: Tagre (Entry Hall). Through Pam Martine: Pair Of Carved Heads. Through Brian Harkins: Ducks. Through Alan Moss: Table (Dining Room). Through Robert Altman: Chairs (Dining Room), Linoleum Flooring Sample (Entry Hall). Carleton V: Wallpaper (Elevator Vestibule). Hudson Valley Lighting Through The Lighting Center: Sconces (Dining Room). Through Wright: Pendant Fixture. Adrien Linford Essentials: Ceramic Fish. Through Frank Rogin: Armchairs (Living Room). Baker Furniture: Small Sofa. Colonia Upholstery: Ottoman Upholstery. Lightolier: Floor Lamp. Lee Jofa: Curtain Fabric. Through 20th Century Gallery: Long Sofa (Living Room), Pendant Fixture (Hallway). Aurora Lampworks: Pendant Fixture (Study). Hendrickson Custom Cabinetry: Custom Cabinetry (Bedroom). Through Antik: Desk (Study). Through Karl Kemp and Assoc.: Table Lamp. Nanik: Blinds. A Brass Bed Shoppe: Bed (Bedroom). John Rosselli & Associates: Headboard Fabric. Through Greenwich Oriental Antiques: Side Table. Throughout Farrow & Ball: Paint. Phillip Jeffries: Wall Covering.
Photography by Eric Laignel.