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A Designer’s Hardworking New York Apartment

In his New York Apartment, designer Rob Stuart waves a wand to create space where there is none

Written by Krissa Rossbund
  • Francesco Lagnese

    Rob Stuart is full of surprises. He has to be, considering the apartment he shares with husband Arthur Schoefer in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan is a mere 1,200 square feet. It’s not only where the couple lives and Rob operates his design business, but also a place where the two showcase their vast and growing collections of antiques. So nooks, crannies, places to display, and spots to store are crucial for everyday living, work, and especially their leisure-time passion for accumulation.

    But Rob wasn’t looking for existing built-in shelves and closets when he began his search for a new abode. In fact, his wish list didn’t include any of the classic details—millwork, dentil molding, and arched windows—that many people love. He prefers interiors with no personality that provide him with a blank slate to reconceive rooms into whatever aesthetic he wishes. The apartment he found boasts soaring ceilings and a panoramic view of New York’s famous skyline, but most important to Rob, it provided a spot to achieve his No. 1 goal—creating a clutter-free environment where he could carry out his own version of  “Now you see it, now you don’t.”

    The living room started as nothing but a boxy space, free of any interesting architecture. Rob aimed for depth and lived-in patina. He moved a couple of walls to open the area, then implemented his handsome palette of brown and camel. A Hudson River painting given to Rob by his parents prompted him to collect additional works in that style. Reimagined and reframed to bear a contemporary slant, the assembly of artwork contrasts sleekly with the textured grass-cloth walls.

    Photography: Francesco Lagnese

    Produced by Wendy Lubovich

    Interior designer: Rob Stuart, Rob Stuart Interiors, 155 Perry St., New York, NY 10014; 212/989-9614, robstuartinteriorsnyc.com

    Wallcovering (Grasscloth #26G C1147): Sonia’s Place, 212/355-5211.
    Sofa (“Vince”/Lupo, color 4): Dune, Dune-ny.com.
    Pillows on sofa (discontinued): Pindler & Pindler, pindler.com.
    Wall lamps (“Osso Wall Task Lamp,” by Sonneman Lighting): Lumens, lumens.com.
    Picture light (“Dorchester 24-inch” #CHD5147): Circa Lighting. circalighting.com.
    Coffee table (“Parsons Table By the Inch”): Room & Board, roomandboard.com.
    Carpet (“Annaka”/Golden, discontinued): Masland Carpets & Rugs, maslandcarpets.com.
    Art behind sofa, left, and splatter painting, center bottom (by Rob Stuart);  Hudson Valley School paintings (antique): owner’s collection.    

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Nice Little Niche

    “Interiors with little or no character can go in any direction one can imagine,” says Rob. “So I intentionally searched for an apartment that had not been renovated. Because there was no worry of stripping it of existing personality, I had no boundaries.”

    Boundaries, no; careful thought, yes. Making room for years of acquired objects wasn’t as simple as chanting “abracadabra.” The limited proportions of the apartment meant that every inch of space required consideration. And it had to look good too.

    A niche in the living room houses a collection of trophy vases. 

    Wooden niche (flea-market find); accessories: owner’s collection

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Bookshelves

    As discerning and devoted collectors, designer Rob Stuart and his husband, Arthur Schoefer, don’t let limited space prevent them from adding to their beloved objects. “Rotation is the key,” explains Rob of the library bookshelves and other spots around his home that exhibit an evolving display throughout the year. “I always note the season and edit accordingly,” he adds. “In the winter, things get cozier and more textured. In the summer, a lighter touch is in store.” A sliding ladder provides access to top cupboards. 

    Wing chair (barrel-back wing chair, discontinued): Ralph Lauren Home, ralphlaurenhome.com.
    Chair fabric (#32359, color 509, Almond, colorway discontinued): Duralee, duralee.com.
    Black-and-white throw: Lillian August, lillianaugust.com.
    Pillow and stool: owner’s collection.
    Side table: Target, target.com.
    Bowl on side table (faux horn): Jamali Garden, jamaligarden.com.
    Bookcase: custom.
    Fabric on bookcase (“Bronze Onyx” #3469705, Faux Leather Studio Collection): Fabricut, fabricut.com.
    Sliding ladder (vintage): Putnam Rolling Ladder, putnamrollingladder.com.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Hidden Treasures

    At the bottom of library bookshelves, faux-leather-faced drawers appear to be individual, but in reality house large bins used to store a variety of acquisitions.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Hint of Drama

    Next, Rob tackled the dining room, a transitional space that opened into the office, kitchen, and bedroom, and needed to pop with a delicate jolt that didn’t overpower. He called on his favorite color as his answer, covering chairs in textured red linen. They surround a table with a slim-profile leather base and a barely-there glass top. “The punch of red adds a moment of drama,” he says. He and his father worked together on the finishing touch—an antique chandelier that they rewired.

    The dining room is a second spot for housing seasonal decorations with storage space carved above the door openings to adjoining rooms.

    Wall paint (“Celery Salt” #OC-136): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Dining chairs (“Sasha”): Crate & Barrel, crateandbarrel.com.
    Dining table (“Atherton Dining Table,” discontinued): Vanguard Furniture, vanguardfurniture.com.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Stylish Kitchen

    Rob designed the kitchen, once closed off by a small doorway, to resemble an English butler’s pantry. The room features reclaimed French floor tiles, a tin ceiling painted with an antique look, and a vintage library ladder that rolls to access upper cabinets. Frosted glass faces most of the upper cabinets, although the middle units were left clear to display a collection of transferware.

    Interior designer Rob Stuart stands on the vintage library ladder. He maximized space in the kitchen with to-the-ceiling Shaker-style cherry cabinetry.

    Sliding ladder (vintage): Putnam Rolling Ladder, putnamrollingladder.com.
    Cabinetry: custom.
    Cabinetry finish (“Walnut” on Cherry wood, satin finish): Minwax, minwax.com.
    Perimeter countertop: honed granite.
    Island (custom design by Rob Stuart, using vintage table legs and antique hardware): Rob Stuart Interiors, robstuartinteriorsnyc.com.
    Accessories on island (vintage): owner’s collection.
    Island countertop: marble.
    Hardware: vintage.
    Hanging light over island (discontinued): Framburg, framburg.com.
    Sink (“Ruscello”): Pozzi-Ginori, pozzi-ginori.com.
    Faucet (“Eve”): KWC Faucets, kwcamerica.com.
    Flooring (“Natural Stone Travertine Tile”/Light Chestnut, honed and unfilled, 16x24 inches, with antique cobbled edge); perimeter tile (“Vermeere Manhattan 3x6-inch Ceramic Field Tile”/Ice Cream Crackle); tiles behind sink (“Vermeere Ceramic Fancy Field-Vine”/Boston Cream, gloss, 6x6-inch): Complete Tile, completetile.com 

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Hardworking Office

    Clever storage solutions, including boxes, drawers, and cubbies, fill the home office, but style was never sacrificed for function and organization. The wood floor features a checkerboard pattern in black and brown. 

    Storage cabinet; accessories on shelves (vintage): owner’s collection.
    Decoupage plates: Kaas Glassworks, kaas.com.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Disappearing Desk

    Rob employed a variety of textures in the office, ranging from leather on a vintage armchair and drawer pulls on the desk to cork on a pinboard and natural materials on the window shade.

    Under tackboards installed for inspirational pinnings, a retractable desk surface accessed by a touch mechanism disappears during after-office hours. 

    Flooring paint (“Burnt Umber” and “Mars Black,” Golden Artist Colors): Golden Paint, goldenpaints.com.
    Desk (custom design by Rob Stuart): Rob Stuart Interiors, robstuartinteriorsnyc.com.
    Cork desk back (stock moldings used to frame out cork, sold by roll): Home Depot, homedepot.com.
    Chalkboard: chalkboard paint.
    Leather strap drawer pulls (#DP420C/Chestnut): Mockett Hardware, mockett.com.
    Sconces: (#BB 2210BZ, discontinued): Circa Lighting, circalighting.com.
    Decoupage plates: Kaas Glassworks, kaas.com.
    Pillow (for similar: “Turquoise Butterfly Pillow”): SCW Interiors, shop.scwinteriors.com.
    Chair: owner’s collection.  

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Office Max

    Adjacent to a chalkboard where Rob writes to-dos, a panel upholstered in a ticking-stripe fabric hides the contents of a closet. The office doubles as a guest room. 

    Fabric on upholstered door (“Casablanca”/Truffle #1767): Pindler & Pindler, pindler.com.
    Pillow; butterfly etchings: owner’s collection.
    Blackboard: chalkboard paint.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Daybed

    Opposite the desk, a wall was installed to hug a daybed. Casual stripes on daybed linens and a screen help relax the space, while a hint of glamour gleams from a paneled mirror on the wall above.

     

    Wall paint (“Celery Salt” #OC-136): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Daybed (standard twin bed on a custom bay of storage drawers, with inset padded faux black leather fronts): custom.
    Daybed fabric: discontinued.
    Pillows on daybed (“Bengali Grey”): Lacefield, lacefielddesigns.com.
    Mirrored panels behind daybed (mirrors cut to size): Rosen-Paramount Glass, rosenparamountglass.com.
    Molding trim on mirrors: Dykes Lumber, dykeslumber.com.
    Window shades: Hunter Douglas Window Fashions, hunterdouglas.com.
    Botanical prints (vintage): owner’s collection.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Organized and Efficient

    A hardworking home office is an efficient one. And when an office is also the nerve center of a design firm with fabric swatches, finish samples, and paint decks as part of its toolbox, organization requires extra mindfulness.  Rob systematically created an office where he could be stimulated and productive. A floor-to-ceiling storage tower with niches accommodates cardboard boxes that are assigned to each of Rob’s clients. 

    “I’m known for adapting to a client’s specific needs. In this case, the client was me,” Rob says with a laugh. “I always have my bag of tricks with a solution I can recommend to whatever challenge is before me. But I always want to execute them differently. I want someone to walk into my projects and never know that a designer was there.”   

    Storage boxes (custom archival document box, metal edges): Gaylord, gaylord.com.
    Pharmacy light (“Franklin Pharmacy Task Table Lamp”): Restoration Hardware, rh.com.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Stately Views

    While space is minimal in the master bedroom, coziness is not. Arresting views of the Empire State Building provide a live light show. Bamboo resonates in the room’s decor—on a faux bamboo headboard that features tufted padding, a mirrored armoire, and an antique chest of drawers positioned against a recessed wall between closets.

    Facing the bed, the faux-bamboo armoire, mirrored to provide full-length reflection, opens to a television.

    Wallcovering below chair rail (“D’Oro Faux Suede”/Desert, colorway discontinued): Dorell Fabrics, dorellfabricoutlet.com.
    Paint above chair rail (“Wheeling Neutral” #HC-92): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Window shades: Hunter Douglas Window Fashions, hunterdouglas.com.
    Armoire (antique, bamboo): owner’s collection.
    Mini wing chair (discontinued, by Ralph Lauren); chair fabric (red ticking, discontinued): ABC Carpet & Home, abchome.com.
    Pillow on chair; bed (vintage); art behind bed (vintage): owner’s collection.
    Bed spread (discontinued): Pottery Barn, potterybarn.com.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Cozy Bedroom

    One of Rob’s Hudson River paintings hangs above the bed on a padded, recessed wall. A coverlet embroidered in red paisley against a white background lightens the rich tones of the bed linens. 

    Window shades: Hunter Douglas Window Fashions, hunterdouglas.com.
    Wall paint (“Wheeling Neutral” #HC-92): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Fabric on wall behind bed and on ottoman (“D’Oro Faux Suede”/Desert, colorway discontinued): Dorell Fabrics, dorellfabricoutlet.com.
    Quilt and bedding (discontinued): Pottery Barn, potterybarn.com.
    Decorative pillow on bed (“Alhambra”/Indian Red #MP9367, by Monkwell): discontinued.
    Table lamp; stool by bed; artwork; ladder (vintage); headboard (vintage): owner’s collection.
    Wall lamp (“Dorchester Double Backplate Swing Arm” #CHD5102): Circa Lighting, circalighting.com.
    Carpet (“Posh”/Garnet #9455-150): Masland Carpets & Rugs, maslandcarpets.com.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Bedside Storage

    On the side of the bed, a built-in cabinet houses books and leaves empty wall surface to install a swing-arm lamp, avoiding the need for a freestanding light source.

    With his storage tricks on display, Rob’s clever secrets are revealed. “This apartment has special meaning, because it was designed with the things that we collect and love in mind,” he says. “But with all the planning, what moves me the most is the imperfection. Perfection is an illusion that is impossible to reach. I want something that feels lived in and worked on. And this home does that.”

    Bookcase: owner’s collection.
    Wall light (“Dorchester Double Backplate Swing Arm Wall Lamp” #CHD5102): Circa Lighting, circalighting.com.
    Wallcovering (“D’Oro Faux Suede”/Desert, colorway discontinued): Dorell Fabrics, dorellfabricoutlet.com.
    Bed (vintage): owner’s collection.
    Pillow (“Alhambra”/Indian Red #MP9367, by Monkwell): discontinued.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Closet Space

    “When I address storage, I do it the unconventional way and insist that it be equally beautiful and functional,” explains Rob. In the master bedroom, storage units range from closets and built-ins to stand-alone units. Not wasting any opportunity to add storage, Rob had openings cut out above each glass-front closet door.

    Drapes on closet doors (linen): Restoration Hardware, rh.com.
    Dresser (vintage); mirror (vintage); art; basket; lamp: owner’s collection.

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Bed, Bath, and Beyond Beautiful

    In the bathroom, wallpapered with a faux alligator pattern, fish artwork finished in a gold leaf frame hangs on a hinge that swings open to unveil a cubby space designated to hold extra towels and toiletries. 

    Wallcovering (“Faux Alligator”/Sauterne #1521-42, by Evans & Brown, custom order): Koroseal, koroseal.com.
    Toilet: Toto, totousa.com.
    Vessel sink (“Bagnella”): Duravit, duravit.com.
    Wall mirrors: Rosen-Paramount Glass, rosenparamountglass.com.
    Hanging light above sink (custom): O’Lampia Studio Inc., olampia.com.
    Tile (3x6-inch ultrawhite #100: 2x8-inch universal white rail): Nemo Tile, nemotile.com.
    Art; vintage metal flower: owner’s collection.
    Medicine cabinet (gold frame bought at auction, cabinet built to size): custom. 

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