All in the family
Jane Margolies -- Interior Design, 9/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Scott Specht and Louise Harpman, principals of Specht Harpman, and the namesake principal of S. Russell Groves owe one of their most recent residential jobs to a real-estate miracle. Creative director of apparel company White + Warren, Barbara Benenson Warren was pregnant with her second child and frantically looking for a larger place to live. When she and her investment-banker husband lost out on an eight-room apartment, they dejectedly dragged themselves home to their deco building on the Upper West Side—and discovered that the two-bedroom below theirs was available. Sold!
While the architects prepared to break through the ceiling to combine the units, Groves helped Warren select furniture and lighting—and fast. Everything had to be on hand when construction was finished. "Barbara has a great eye. It made the process swifter," explains Groves. Together, they assembled mid-century and new pieces to complement the Russel Wright pottery that the clients had begun to collect on their own.
As for the renovation, the couple had hoped to build a spiral staircase connecting the apartments' entrance halls, but that was structurally impossible. Specht Harpman instead proposed placing stairs along a sidewall of the two sunken living rooms. "The stairwell has prominence, but it's not right in your face," says Specht. To compensate for the lost square footage, he and Harpman opened up the room to the dining room.
The sunken living area is now a study in white, its easy glamour the product of a 1950's-inspired curved white settee, a white flokati rug, and an aluminum floor lamp by David Weeks. For the dining area, Groves designed a wall-hung Douglas fir console and a teak extension table to accompany vintage walnut chairs by Norman Cherner.
Specht Harpman combined the former downstairs galley kitchen and a small bedroom to create a larger kitchen with a breakfast nook. The upstairs living room underwent a predominantly cosmetic transformation. Now the children's playroom, the space is outfitted with a large square of orange industrial rubber tiles, taped together to protect the apartment's original oak flooring—and provide graphic punch.
In addition to the two existing upstairs bedrooms, the architects made a third out of the original dining room. They even squeezed in a small fourth bedroom by converting the former galley kitchen on this floor. Just in case of another young arrival.