When the interior designer Sebastian Zuchowicki began working with his client on their New York City residence, the starting point was the living room. “I feel like the living room concepts are always the soul of the space, especially in a New York City apartment, and then it trickles down,” he says.
Compared to his client’s conventional summer house in Rhode Island, the three-bedroom apartment in West Chelsea that he currently shares with his two children (and their cat) is a modern sanctuary with a finely tuned aesthetic. Zuchowicki spent a whole year slowly transforming the 3,000-square-foot condominium one room at a time, until the bedrooms, dining room, and newly fashioned private library had been completely perfected.
“He likes holding onto memories through objects,” Zuchowicki explains in regards to his client’s massive collection of first edition books, sculptures, ceramics, rugs, and other objects from his international travels. While Zuchowicki describes his client as a traditionalist, he has a curatorial eye for cultural artifacts—two things that, when put together, tell a compelling story. This is most evident in the cozy library-den where pictures and portraits of the client’s family members are in the company of pieces like a vintage 1930s Hermès lamp, a Jean Prouvé chair from Dobrinka Salzman Gallery, and a vintage chair that was once housed in a psychiatric hospital.
To channel a sense of “handsome soul” into the interiors of a contemporary space with a concrete, steel, and brick exterior, Zuchowicki’s vision for his client was “French Deco with a little bit of prep.” He achieved this through the application of different textures on the walls, from suede and velvet to linen and Venetian plaster. There are also custom doors made out of shagreen and leather, as seen in the entry and hallway.
“One of the biggest challenges was to find what’s the right balance,” Zuchowicki admits. “How traditional can I go with some shapes without breaking that boundary?” Catering toward the client’s preppier sensibilities, he leaned into a neutral palette with older finishes like herringbone prints and red-tinged leathers to contrast the austerity of such serious shapes.
The overall vibe in the space is elegant and inviting while remaining easy on the eyes, all without subscribing to any specific gender roles. “He has a daughter so I didn’t want this whole place feeling like it’s for him and his son,” Zuchowicki says. “I also wanted to make sure that it was delicate enough, I didn’t want it to feel too handsome.” This was especially top of mind for the primary bedroom, where Zuchowicki was determined to maintain a playful atmosphere. In that zone, the tone is much softer thanks to the inclusion of a fuzzy Viggo Boesen settee, Lilla Svampen stool, and goat hair rug from Beauvais Carpets.
In this household, family always comes first, so for the dining room the client had only one request: a ping-pong table. The recreational activity is one of their favorite pastimes, but this particular table by Sean Woolsey Studio wouldn’t just be reserved for fun and games—Zuchowicki’s client latched onto the idea of using it as a gathering place to sit down for all of their meals together. Wondering how to make the room feel warm and welcoming while also staying connected to the rest of a home with a more serious attitude, Zuchowicki added a chandelier from The Urban Electric Company and a set of white oak dining chairs by House of Leon on top of a Beauvais Carpets rug in the style of Emile Jacques Ruhlmann. The artwork by Adja Yunkers from Dobrinka Salzman Gallery also livens up the interior.
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A mix of classic and contemporary pieces with character are woven into every room, so the entire home looks lived in, as opposed to stuffy. Vintage Adnet sconces, Max Simon mobiles, Carlos Utero lamps, and a Jean-Michel Frank–style sofa help make that possible while avoiding potential trends. “I didn’t want you to walk into this space and have it feel like it was brand new, like we just did it,” he adds. “Every time you walk into space, I want you to feel like you redid it five years ago.”
Something else that Zuchowicki fondly remembers is the process of convincing this client to get over his bias against naked floors. “He did not like to see his floor, but I was like, ‘Your floors are beautiful. I understand you want to soften the space, and we’re going to do that, but you have to show some skin.’” By gently pushing him out of his comfort zone and toward more modern sensibilities, Zuchowicki was able to set a tone that is layered appropriately for how the client wants to live while respecting the nature of the space.
“My favorite detail is that there’s texture everywhere you look,” concludes Zuchowicki. “Literally everywhere you look, there’s texture. You won’t see a white wall anywhere and that to me makes it feel special. It doesn’t feel heavy and that was really important, I wanted it to feel light but super textured.”