Fifth Avenue Jewelry
It was a classic New York apartment in one of Fifth Avenue’s most exclusive buildings, with city views—including an enviable panorama of Central Park—in all four directions. The clients, a hotel magnate and his stylish wife, had enthusiasm and energy to burn (and a rare budget to match).
Even by the standards of Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts—a New York design team known for their luxurious interiors—it was a dream commission. They let their imaginations run wild: How about a dining room incorporating vintage mirrored-glass moldings designed by Dorothy Draper? A library painted in purple high-gloss lacquer? Curtains hand-embroidered in Paris with amethyst crystals and metal beads? “There aren’t a lot of clients who would embrace these kinds of moves,” says Haynes, “but they loved it. They wanted to do some exciting things. And they committed the time and resources to make it happen.”
The husband wanted a home that was respectful of the apartment’s 1920s architecture (the Italian Renaissance–style building was designed by Rosario Candela, who created some of the city’s earliest luxury apartment houses) but equipped with such modern amenities as central air-conditioning and wireless controls. He brought in an architect with whom he had worked before, Oscar Shamamian, to collaborate with the decorators.
The wife, who had admired Haynes and Roberts’s work in a magazine, loved their deft use of color and mixing of styles and periods. But she asked them to push the envelope, incorporating lighthearted touches (such as the powder room’s pink metallic toilet) and liberal doses of sparkle and pizzazz. “They really heard us,” she says. “We wanted a glamorous but warm and livable home. I have an eight-year-old daughter who brings her friends home to play. My husband has two sons: a teenager and a college student. We didn’t want to live in a museum or take ourselves too seriously.”
Meanwhile, realizing that construction is allowed in their cooperative apartment building only in the summer months, the couple gave their team a rare gift—a three-year timetable to get the job done. “People say, Three years, oh my,” says the husband. “But we wanted a finished product we’d live in for a long time, and for the process to be enjoyable.”
The schedule gave the architects time to mock up everything from moldings to ceiling profiles. They installed life-size replicas in situ so that the clients would know exactly what they were getting. “It’s a small cost for the refinement and confidence they provide,” says Shamamian.
Haynes and Roberts spent a year conceiving the apartment’s flow and finishes. Doorways were enlarged to create vistas from the apartment’s core to the windows that frame it. A Deco-inspired front door was crafted in black lacquer and brushed stainless steel, and the entry’s walls are clad in Thassos marble. “We don’t like to hide rooms in curtains and layers of furniture,” Haynes says. “Our priority is to make the background beautiful.”
They furnished the space with a world-class collection of rare finds from the 1940s to the ’80s, including a James Mont sectional sofa and an illuminated Cloud table by the artist Guy de Rougemont. In addition, they commissioned furnishings from contemporary designers, including Hervé Van der Straeten, Mattia Bonetti, and Maria Pergay, the 81-year-old Parisian modernist who created the dining room’s showstopping round table in bronze, glass, and Lucite.
“In three years of construction,” the husband says, “we didn’t miss a meeting.” In fact, given their involvement it was with some trepidation that the couple departed on a monthlong vacation to Asia, during which the design team was to install the entire apartment. “I asked the contractor to send pictures to my BlackBerry, but Kevin and Tim made him stop,” says the wife. “They wanted us to be surprised.”
With permission, a pulley system was installed on the upstairs neighbors’ penthouse terrace so that the furniture and art—including nine-foot sofas and the living room’s eight-foot-diameter Takashi Murakami painting—could be hoisted through the windows. “Everyone worked feverishly to make the deadline,” Haynes says. The Pergay table was delivered just days before the clients’ return.
At last, the couple arrived home from their trip and headed straight from the airport to their finished apartment. The library shimmered in purple. The master bedroom, with its cashmere-silk walls and gem-encrusted curtains, was serene. His dressing room had leather walls and cerused-oak shelves, while hers was drop-dead chic with its lilac lacquered cabinetry, Jansen desk, and bird’s-eye views of neighboring rooftops. “It was breathtaking,” she says. “Even better than we expected. But best of all, it really felt like us.”