My Home Renovation: A Deco Apartment on the Park

Anybody who’s ever renovated a home has tales to tell of cost overruns, scheduling glitches, contractor clashes, unexpected oversights and sheer errors. As a luxury interior designer, I’ve not only heard them all but stepped in (with my fabulous JLI team) to successfully prevent or resolve them.

So when I bought a 90-year-old apartment that needed a huge decorative update, I told everybody it would be a no-brainer.

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Philip B. Maher designed two caddy corner buildings with clean-lined limestone facades in the late 1920s. They embraced clean vertical lines and modern setbacks to distinguish them from neo-classic and beaux arts buildings nearby. My apartment is in the newer of the two, finished in 1930.

Famous last words. While I know how to avoid the usual traps—think change orders, cost overruns and quarrels with my contractor (I love the guy!)–I never realized just how hard it would be to decide exactly what I wanted to do and use in my home renovation. How do you make decisions when you know (and love) so many things that are out there, not to mention having close friendships with many of our field’s most renowned creators and vendors?

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So many options! We’d hoped to use Eve Kaplan’s dazzling Gilded Ceramic Chandelier for Gerald Bland; de Gournay’s newest impressive wallcovering and Ochre’s graceful horn handles. All are exquisite, but none were quite right for the vibe we’re trying to create to match the apartment’s provenance.

Why did this reality elude me? Doing my first home—a historic, Louis Sullivan-designed Lincoln Park rowhouse—was a 25-year process dictated by my age (young), resources (I was just starting my business) and family (two young boys). It took me many months to save up for my Christian Astuguevielle table when Holly Hunt first started carrying his work, and much longer renovate my kitchen and bathrooms. I had time to think about every choice rather than doing everything at once.

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Should it stay or should it go? We’re still deciding if there’s room in my new apartment for this incredible table by Christian Astuguevielle I’ve owned for years. (Image: Sotheby’s Home)

Today, I’m a seasoned designer, know what I like and am aware of everything out there…and then some! I know too much, like too much and want to give everything a chance. I never expected my home renovation would cause so much angst. Yet at the same time, it gives me the opportunity to share a lot of interesting and insightful information about design strategies, furnishings, treatments, finishes, decorative techniques and more on our blog in the coming months, especially since my whole team is involved in this project.

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We fell in love all over again with Églomisé, the process of painting an image on the back face of glass to produce a mirror finish. Here are three exampes done by Timna Woollard Studio, Gorman Studios, and Simes Studios. (Images: Timna Woollard Studio, Gorman Studios, and Simes Studios)

In truth, this has evolved into our team’s passion project; we’ve named it the “Apartment on the Park” since it overlooks a small neighborhood playlot. We get to try out new products and recycle time-honored decorative techniques we’ve rediscovered while researching what to do. But we’ve also learned a hard-won lesson—most notably, you can’t do it all. So in the coming months, we’ll share our thoughts on where to splurge and where to save, what pays off in a luxury renovation, what we’ve fallen in love with all over again and more. Stay tuned!

12 Apr 2019

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