Fashion Guru Tim Gunn's Elegant New York Apartment Is a Lesson in Classic Style
Tim Gunn's New York apartment and terrace garden reflect the Project Runway host's classic style.
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.
Classic Living Room
"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.
"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."
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.
Cozy Dining Area
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.
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."
Antique-Filled Master Bedroom
Antique chinoiserie pieces, including the folding screen in the master bedroom, infuse Tim's interiors with just the right amount of sophisticated, grounding black and speak of his many past trips to East Asia.
Elegant Guest Bedroom
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.
Transition to Terrace
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.
"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.
Intimate Seating Nook
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.
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.
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.
Fashion Mentor Tim Gunn
"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."