September 1, 2011

High Above the High Line: The HL23’s Model Apartment Awes Chelsea

With bold structural diagonals and canted window walls, HL23 awes Chelsea. The 14-story apartment building, Los Angeles-based Interior Design Hall of Fame member Neil Denari‘s first ground-up project on the East Coast, soars like a sci-fi space station past the elevated lawn of the High Line park next door. Adapting to the narrow site means that all but three of the floors are different sizes, demanding unique layouts.

To further set HL23 apart, Thomas Juul-Hansen’s namesake firm gave the living-dining rooms the lion’s share of the square footage. “We felt we should have expansive rooms for sculpture and other art,” he says. After all, almost every contemporary gallery in the city is within a five-minute walk.

Juul-Hansen also added such interior finishes as floors of solid rift-sawn oak, wide planks tinted white with a matte finish. Bathrooms are a symphony of highly figured gray-and-white marble, extended even onto the ceiling of the glassed-in wet rooms. When the developer, Alf Naman Real Estate Advisors, brought in Ryan Lawson‘s firm to kit out the 2,200-square-foot, 11th-story floor-through as a model apartment, Lawson continued to build on the high level of luxury.

An interior designer with architectural training, he tweaked the living area’s fireplace wall by installing cabinetry to fill a blank space next to the full-height chimney breast, in ocean-blue travertine, and beneath a soffit that undercuts the 10-foot ceiling height. He lacquered the cabinet doors pale gray and painted the walls and beams a deeper French gray. The shimmer of the gray silk shag rug he chose makes it appear a bit lighter.

For the majority of the furnishings, Sebastian + Barquet gallery creative director Nicholas Kilner coordinated loans of 31 objects, large and small. “There are a number of masterpieces in their collection-from the U.S., the Netherlands, France, and Italy,” Lawson says. “We took the ones with strong silhouettes to stand up to the pronounced geometry of the building.”

The living area’s crescent sofa by Vladimir Kagan is so large that reupholstering it required four hair-on cowhides, white with brown spots. Rounding out the group are Kagan’s rare armchair prototypes and George Nakashima’s free-edge walnut cocktail table. “The table and chairs were birthed at nearly the same time but in a completely different sensibility,” Lawson says.

Of the three bedrooms, the master received the most standard treatment. In the guest room, he unified disparate objects by tying them into the bright colors of artist Fred Tomaselli’s wall covering-garlanded with tiny images of pills, flowers, lips, and eyeballs. A rare Donald Judd chair, used as a side table­, picks up Tomaselli’s yellow, and several of the wall colors find near-matches in a 19th-century Amish quilt. “There’s a beautiful spectrum­ of complementary hues that?gives a sense of nowness and validity­ to both,” Lawson says. He turned the final bedroom into a library, featuring steel shelves incor­porating a pigskin-wrapped desktop.

Lighting receives special attention. In the master bedroom, an Isamu Noguchi rice-paper floor lantern became an ethereal counterpoint to a buffalo-fur rug. For the living-dining room, Lawson borrowed a David Weeks chandelier and a Philip Johnson floor lamp, unusual because its shade is painted rather than brass.

Even more important, the floor lamp’s downward direction reduces glare in the glass-fronted living-dining room. “You don’t want reflections in those windows when you’re trying to look at the $5 million view,” Lawson says with a laugh. A problem any New Yorker would love to have.


Lighting Design Alliance: Lighting Consultant. Sandra Antelo-Suarez; Sara Meltzer Gallery: Art Consultants. Ambrosino, DePinto & Schmieder, Consulting Engineers: MEP. Shen Milsom Wilke: Acoustical Engineer. Fine Upholstery by Pizzillo: Upholstery Workshop. T.G. Nickel & Associates: General Contractor. 

Recent Projects