A move up in a New York City apartment building prompts a couple to call on designer Ellie Cullman to elevate their interiors.

By Krissa Rossbund
January 29, 2021
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Chances to move up in the world don't come along every day. So when an apartment with arresting views came on the market in Manhattan, one couple didn't think twice about making it their own. Although a rental they called home when visiting the city had served them well for years, it didn't provide the spectacle of Central Park, a natural treasure the couple wanted to enjoy from their own windows. Their new home met that desire, and even better, it was only two floors up in the same building. No address change cards needed—just an eye for design, which came from the legendary Ellie Cullman and her design partner Sarah Ramsey at Cullman & Kravis.

Paul Ferrante pendants light the path through the foyer.
| Credit: Mark Roskams

"They loved this building," Cullman says. "The couple's primary home is in Delaware, but they have occasional work in New York, and one of their two grown children lives in New York. They wanted a place where they could all stay."

Credit: Mark Roskams

The sights outside the apartment windows gave important perspective when Cullman and Ramsey were dreaming up mood boards for their clients' new digs. All forms of performing art lie only steps away from this Upper West Side building, and the homeowners especially love its proximity to Lincoln Center and the theater. But inside the apartment, art of another form—paintings and sculptures, mostly by artists the couple know—played an even bigger role in the design decisions. Cullman and Ramsey opted against a scheme focused on glamorizing every inch of the apartment and instead thoughtfully created a plan that allows plenty of breathing room for special pieces to shine. Their goals were simple: Highlight the artwork; highlight the view.

The homeowners requested that their corner apartment "frame" the panoramic views of Central Park. Dotted with artwork, the living room features a seating arrangement centered on an organic-shape bronze cocktail table inspired by the work of sculptor Richard Serra.

Credit: Mark Roskams

Separated only by a low wall of built-in shelves, the living room and library carry the same palette. A brass chandelier with a modern form is suspended from the library ceiling.

Left: Credit: Mark Roskams
Right: Credit: Mark Roskams

Tall windows provide functional light in the library, where a classic writing desk and chairs were placed against the window wall. The sofa wears comfortable corduroy velvet fabric in a hue pulled from the abstract painting that hangs above it. Pillows made of Fortuny fabric add depth and pattern.

The designers knew they didn't want this apartment to follow the Art Deco lead of its building's architecture and lobby. But the aesthetic of a sleek urban showroom wasn't right either. They found exactly the right inspiration in an Oushak rug their clients had in their Delaware home. Full of color—greens, beiges, and strong shots of rust—the rug ultimately set the palette of the entire home.

Credit: Mark Roskams

"Because of the park views, we made the envelope of their apartment very serene," Cullman says. "But we wanted some color, and their rug was the perfect catalyst for the project. With its colors, it was like seasoning for a soup."

A small dining table suits the homeowners' simple entertaining needs, which typically consist of cocktails. The table's anigre wood repeats on kitchen cabinets and on library shelving units.

Credit: Mark Roskams

A backsplash of back-painted glass tiles by artist Miriam Ellner depicts leaves with a metallic flicker.

The updated traditional tone of the apartment couldn't have been achieved without the right backdrop for their interior design. Cullman and Ramsey credit architect Peter Zimmerman, who introduced them to the client. His foundation gave them arched doors, coffered ceilings, and spaces that stylishly open to each other.

Credit: Mark Roskams

Referencing the nature that is enjoyed from expansive windows, an embroidered leaf fabric repeats throughout the master bedroom's soft goods. The chaise was placed on a platform to comfortably take in park views.

Credit: Mark Roskams

Wallpaper with a leaf motif offers a neutral background for colorful accents.

It all melds into an apartment the owners love—so much so that they've called in Cullman on another project. "We are now working on their Delaware home," she says. "Each project has a different aesthetic, but the underlying concept is the same. You not only understand what looks good, but more important, how they like to live."

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