richard rabel: a 1930s penthouse renovation in manhattan (before and after)

nyc penthouse livingroom

People often ask me about my “style” in decorating and what I end up telling them is that my trademarks are polished, livable, warm and unique interiors that reflect today’s lifestyle; the are informed by the past but have a singularly clean and modern soul. This NYC penthouse project is a prime example.

And this is due to my luck for having been born into a wonderful worldly family where I traveled extensively from a very young age, studied design and from the rich experience in the fine and decorative arts formed during a decade-long career at Christie’s. The result of these experiences gives me a level of unparalleled connoisseurship and access to art that translates into a distinct aesthetic to my modern rooms that feel comfortable, relaxed, rich and sophisticated without being too precious.

nyc penthouse - entry before
nyc penthouse entrance

Featured today is a full nyc penthouse renovation project for an art collecting couple in Manhattan with sweeping vistas of the Hudson River and city skyline.  Because of their dissimilar tastes, the clients wanted an “eclectic” and beautiful space they could both call home.  So they offered me the opportunity, a strict but realistic budget, 4 months … and we got to work!

We stained the original and wickedly beautiful chevron pattern oak floors with a proprietary dark color to turn on the hidden sophistication of the space.  The walls and ceilings were skim-coated and painted in Benjamin Moore hues of gray to get rid of the dreadful hospital white walls, to add coziness and to better showcase the art.  A simple crown molding and wider baseboards were added to “finish” and modernize the rooms of the NYC penthouse.

nyc penthouse - dining room before
nyc penthouse diningroom

I added a set of close woven sisal rugs in a natural color with minimalist borders to warm up the rooms, add texture and to better highlight the space without leaving it totally uncovered (as the client had originally envisioned).  I saw a great potential in the nyc penthouse space to create a gallery for some of their collection of contemporary photography.

nyc penthouse - hallway before
nyc penthouse hallway

The inside of the front door and all door frames were stripped to the raw metal, treated and left as part of the décor to give this uptown space a downtown edge.  All inside doors were replaced and lacquered in black, allowing the awesome period bakelite knobs, stripped metal door frames and marvelous nickel hinges to showcase as a cohesive group.

nyc penthouse - bathroom before
nyc penthouse bathroom

The bathroom was completely gutted, though keeping its existing footprint, and given a modern look and relevant practicality by introducing a glass enclosure, honed granite, rain shower and fixtures by Waterworks, HansgroheDuravit and TOTO.  A glass enclosure allows light to flood the space and makes the room feel more spacious.

nyc penthouse - bedroom before
nyc penthouse office

The small bedroom in the nyc penthouse was repurposed as a home office/library with a wrap-around custom bookcase and file cabinets in solid walnut to give the clients what they need: a serene, practical and inspiring space to read and work.  The same type of sisal carpets were placed throughout the home to unite the spaces.

nyc penthouse - living room before
nyc penthouse - living room after

A drop-dead gorgeous vintage shagreen table was placed in the window nook as an informal dining table to enjoy views of the city skyline while the rest of the nyc penthouse livingroom was arranged to take advantage of the Hudson river views.  The choice art, antiques and modern design pieces came from a number of sources including Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Hartman Rare Art, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Robert Burge Photography, Flair, 1stDibs and the non-custom furniture pieces came from Holly Hunt, Hulsta, Giorgetti and C.J. Peters.

As most interior designers and decorators, one is constrained by the hard reality of a budget, both for the space layout (moving/demolishing walls, adding architectural details) and for the decoration. Most spaces are not exactly what the decorator would have envisioned given carte blanche. But having said this, I’m VERY pleased with the results of this nyc penthouse renovation and decorating project.  The apartment was transformed into a cohesive space with each room showing personality.  More importantly, the clients are ecstatic, thankful, and happy and I continue working with them to find special pieces of art + design for their collection.
image credits: nyc penthouse : all “before” photos by Richard Rabel for TheModernSybarite.  All “after” photos  © Joshua McHugh, New York

Note: to see a selection of detail shots of these rooms and their objects, please see my related post.