September 25, 2013

No Jacket Required: Coming Home to Art

It isn’t every street that, just by virtue of its name, conjures up a particular way of life. But ever since most of Fourth Avenue was renamed for the planted medians in the center of the boulevard, “Park Avenue” has been shorthand for traditional Upper East Side wealth and privilege. Case in point: an apartment in a 1926 building by Schwartz and Gross. “The layout was old-world. Very front-of-house and back-of-house,” Taryn Christoff of Christoff Finio Architecture says.

She and Martin Finio re­invented the apartment for an art-collecting couple and their three young children—not an easy task, considering that the co-op board wouldn’t allow major changes to the 4,000-square-foot five-bedroom floor plan. Ideas of reassigning the living-dining room to the Park Avenue frontage, instead of the side street, had to give way to subtler changes that still satisfied the couple’s desire for more openness. For instance, Christoff Finio stripped certain nonbearing partition walls of their detail and shaved off their sides, freeing up circulation around them.

Movement was equally im­portant for the art, a rotating selection of contemporary works. Recessed wall-washers were installed not just at strategic points but throughout—so Will Cotton’s patisserie-fantasy oil painting, hanging in the master bedroom today, could be appreciated in the playroom tomorrow. “Lighting can be difficult when walls shift in and out of plane, as is often the case in prewar spaces, with their penchant for niches and pilasters,” Finio explains.

Before the renovation got under way, Victoria Kirk Interiors came on to mix new furnishings and existing pieces. “With a few exceptions, we created a quiet background, so the art pops,” Victoria Kirk says. Those exceptions include an Yves Klein cocktail table in bubblegum pink and a Gaetano Pesce ottoman in?tufted periwinkle. Old world, meet new.

Project Team

Tillett Light­ing Design: Light­ing Consultant. Allison Tick Interiors: Styling Consultant. Cosen­tini Associates; Plus Group: MEP. Ébénis­terie Classique: Woodwork. Interiors by Robert: Upholstery Workshop. Uberto Construction: General Contractor.

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