Fashion Guru Tim Gunn's New York Apartment Epitomizes Classic Style

dining area on new york terrace
Photo: John Bessler

Tim Gunn's New York apartment and terrace garden reflect the Project Runway host's classic style.

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Design Influences

warm tones elegant sitting room
John Bessler

Before Tim Gunn climbed to celebrity status as America's most-loved fashion guru, he built the foundation for that life—with Legos.

"I'm obsessed with architecture. I always have been," says this Socrates of style. "When I was 9, I went to Monticello and was enthralled. I scraped together my pennies to buy a book of Thomas Jefferson's architectural drawings. When I got home, I built some of the rooms with Legos. The Legos are gone, but I still have that architecture book."

It's housed with hundreds of other volumes in Tim's home, an apartment on New York's Upper West Side that, unsurprisingly, is the epitome of good taste and timeless style.

In the living room, a camel-hue sofa and chairs from Pottery Barn give off a serene mood, as does the complementary Louis XV Salon Chair from Ballard Designs in a taupe buffalo check.

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Classic Living Room

classic wooden dresser against gold wall
John Bessler

"Certainly, I'm a classicist. I crave good proportions and subscribe to the golden mean," says Tim, who did all of his own interior design in a carefully thought-out manner.

Living room walls coated in "Tawny Bisque" by Benjamin Moore bring warmth and provide the neutral canvas that Tim prefers for his collected artworks.

"I'm very slow and plodding when it comes to furniture arranging and hanging paintings," he says. "But when it comes to color, there's no hesitation."

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Collected Style

wooden antique doll house in dining room
John Bessler

Tim's home is filled with antiques, including family heirlooms like a reproduction Georgian piece that once belonged to his mother; it now stows some of his many books.

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Cozy Dining Area

plaid chairs in warm tones dining room
John Bessler

Tim knew exactly what he didn't want when he bought the apartment: the aubergine hue that originally coated every interior wall and felt as inviting as "walking into a bruise." He also knew what he did want: a calm palette of earthy hues, including neutral fabrics and ochre walls. "The ochre color was inspired by a trip to Bath, England," Tim says. "It's such a warm color, and it looks great with rich woods and traditional paintings. I like a soothing canvas."

An architectural model by Timothy Richards takes center stage on the dining table. Tim has a dozen of Richards's pieces, this one a miniature of an English estate house. The oval-back Louis XVI chairs and chandelier are from Ballard Designs.

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Special Collectibles

heirloom eyeglasses in glass coffee table display
John Bessler

The neutrals serve as a chic runway for Tim's collected pieces: treasures discovered on trips to Hong Kong when he was associate dean of New York's Parsons School of Design, 18th- and 19th-century paintings snapped up from One Kings Lane, and family heirlooms like a mélange of eyeglasses that he rescued when his antiques-loving great-aunt was moved to a nursing home and her collections were relegated to the curb. "These things mean something to me," Tim says. "I love history, and objects with a story to tell."

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Antique-Filled Primary Bedroom

warm tones master bedroom with animal print blankets
John Bessler

Antique chinoiserie pieces, including the folding screen in the primary bedroom, infuse Tim's interiors with just the right amount of sophisticated, grounding black and speak of his many past trips to East Asia.

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Elegant Guest Bedroom

guest room with large wooden bedframe and red bench
John Bessler

A persimmon bench layers rich color into the elegant guest room, where walls wear "Pine Barrens" paint from Benjamin Moore. The Pottery Barn bed is dressed in sage toile and topped with pillows made from antique tapestries. An antique rug brings in deeper green underfoot. The vintage armoire is one of many pieces throughout the home that give a sense of history, "a narrative," Tim says, to his rooms.

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Transition to Terrace

naturally lit foyer with entrance to terrace
John Bessler

The stories flow from Tim's rooms out to the terrace, where antique furniture and statuary pieces layer age and character into an alfresco sanctuary in the city created by landscape designer Antonio Parrotta.

Plants near the back door make for an easy transition to the terrace, which tacks on 500 square feet of living space to Tim's 1,700-square-foot New York apartment.

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Terrace Console

terrace with plants and decorative mirror
John Bessler

"I used to just go down to the PlantShed every spring, buy one little pot with something in it, and put it out on the terrace," Tim says. "I started to think, 'This is ridiculous. I can't go on like this.' When it came to designing the terrace, it was one of the few times I felt disabled. It's just not what I'm used to."

A mirror framed in hammered metal pairs beautifully with a marble-top antique console. "I love putting a mirror in an outdoor space," Parrotta says. "It's unexpected, and the reflected images of the garden are wonderful." Potted trees, shrubs, and flowering plants staged at different heights make the modest-size urban terrace feel like a bucolic garden.

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Intimate Seating Nook

black ornate metal bench amongst greenery on terrace
John Bessler

Happily, Tim bumped into Parrotta, who was working on another terrace project in the same building. "Later, I told Tony that I envisioned something minimal, sort of West Elm," Tim remembers. "Tony just looked at me for a minute in disbelief, then he said, 'You don't live like that. Your terrace can't look like that.'" Instead, Parrotta convinced Tim that the outdoor area should be an extension of his interiors. "When you go in someone's home, you can feel what he wants outside," Parrotta says. "I knew Tim really wanted a European feel, layered little niches that make you feel like you're in a garden in Paris or Rome."

Parrotta created intimate seating niches screened by verdant potted plants. One cozy nook pairs an ornate botantist's bench with a clean-lined concrete table by Currey & Company.

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Garden Accents

roman statue on new york terrace
John Bessler

Turns out, Parrotta nailed it. "Shortly after I met Tony, I was in Rome with Project Runway, and that visit ignited this fervor in me. I started sending Tony pictures of things I loved there," Tim says.

Antiques inspired by Roman gardens layer rich character into the terrace. Tim found the Apollo statue and the obelisk on 1stdibs. New pieces with great patina also are part of the mix in the outdoor space.

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Terrace Dining

dining area on new york terrace
John Bessler

Parrotta delivered. He was already channeling Rome, transforming the slab of concrete into a layered European-style garden. The first step was placing potted trees: birches to cloak a galvanized pipe that vents the neighbor's fireplace and evergreens to act as a privacy screen. Then he layered in elegant furniture, smaller potted plants in jewel tones (no pastels at Tim's request) and classic statuary pieces, plus lighting that makes the terrace sparkle after dark. Plants are connected to a drip irrigation system for easy care.

The welcoming outdoor rooms have expanded Tim's living space and provided him with a great spot for entertaining or just escaping the busyness of everyday life in the city without having to hop a plane to Rome.

A hand-forged table with a Carrara marble top offers a convivial alfresco dining spot for six. End chairs are from JANUS et Cie; side chairs are from Palecek. Copper lanterns by Vaughan Designs keep the party going after dark.

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Fashion Mentor Tim Gunn

tim gunn sitting in chair on terrace
John Bessler

"It's incredible," Tim, pictured here, says. "In New York, having this terrace and this apartment is a true luxury. I'm a nester by nature. It feels amazing for me to be able to come home every night and close the front door."

Updated by
Erin Swift

Erin Swift has worked as a creative director, stylist, and designer in the magazine industry since 2005. She has experience in photo styling sets and interiors. You can find her work in numerous major publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, Vogue, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Glamour, Marie Claire, and more. In addition to her work as a contributor, she served as a style and market editor for Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, O Magazine, and Elegant Bride. In 2016, she served as the style director for One Kings Lane. Erin's book "French Accents: At Home With Parisian Objects and Details" was published in 2013.

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