Tour a Totally Transformed Chelsea, New York, Home That Used to Be Cold and Unoriginal
When architect Alan Barlis was commissioned to renovate a 4,000-square-foot apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, he quickly sized up its pros and cons. “The location was an obvious high point—you’re immediately made aware of its extraordinary views,” the MIT-trained designer and BarlisWedlick principal says of the apartment’s three terraces with unobstructed views to the north and south. “Although it lacked character, the potential for creating something exceptional was certainly there.”
Fashioning the home began with collaborating with MK Workshop, a Brooklyn-based interior design studio. The goal was to create a sense of cohesion between the architecture and the furnishings, allowing various palettes and materials to play a central role in the process. “The original living space had rather cold finishes,” says Petra McKenzie, an interior designer and principal at MK Workshop. “It needed warmth and texture so we focused on adding more plush interiors but also rich colors.”
That richness of hues is displayed most notably in the home’s living room, which balances understated elegance with midcentury interiors. A custom rosewood sofa in Belgium linen created by MK Workshop Interior Design sits across from two suede Sumo Lounge Chairs from Holly Hunt. Black slate and walnut side tables by midcentury designer Adrian Pearsall share space with a Joaquim coffee table created by Italian designer Giorgio Bonaguro for Tacchini. A hidden stereo closet with storage for more than 800 vinyl records further establishes the room’s soulful spirit.
Floor-to-ceiling oak replaced monotonous white walls in the main living area, adding warmth to an apartment that felt slightly clinical. The oak elements also skillfully frame the home’s ample views. La Palma Limestone flooring, in a custom trapezoid pattern, was installed in an expanded foyer space that includes a rift-sawed white oak doorway, custom blackened glass, and steel doors. In the den, which serves as an office, TV room, or guest room, a Murphy bed is hidden behind the oak planking.
To help distinguish the dining area from the living room space, the architects created a dropped Venetian plaster ceiling replicating concrete. “The goal was to draw people into the living spaces by creating [a] better flow,” says Jessie Goldvarg, an associate at BarlisWedlick who managed the project. “So we really opened up the living spaces to make them much more inviting.”
BarlisWedlick, known for its energy-efficient and passive house construction, was environmentally conscious throughout the renovation. Any materials removed were donated locally, while elements were reused and relocated wherever possible, the firm says. What’s more, the creative spirit of the residence is animated by the extensive art collection of the homeowners, a couple with three school-aged children. The trove encompasses works by a diverse roster of artists that alternates from playful to provocative.
A colorful abstract piece by the American painter Michael Kessler punctuates the decor in the living room, while a work by the French American artist Frédéric Choisel livens up the guest room/den. A mixed media piece by Vik Muniz, a Brazilian conceptual artist who works with unconventional materials ranging from tomato sauce to diamonds, injects a bolt of energy into the main bedroom.
“The clients were super adventurous,” Jonah Kilday, cofounder of MK Workshop says. “They had a deep appreciation for craftsmanship, but they also weren’t afraid to take chances with the interiors.”