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Elegant New York City Apartment

A pair of fabric-loving New Yorkers layer their home with pattern, patina, personality—and a whole lot of yardage

Written by Mara Boo
  • Brittany Ambridge

    “More is more, less is a bore,” says lauded interior designer Thomas Burak, summarizing the decorating philosophy he shares with his partner, noted fabric designer Michael Devine. “It’s hard for us to say we’re just going to put one thing on a table and leave it at that. We love all these things because they mean something.”

    Indeed. The couple’s 1908 apartment, which enjoys breathtaking views of New York City’s scenic triumvirate—Gramercy Park, the Empire State Building, and the New York Life Building—is a love letter to their travels, shared passions, and the lure of textiles.

    Brimming with a rich and heady mix of classic continental furnishings that includes a Victorian-era English chinoiserie cabinet, painted Swedish dining chairs, and gilded French mirrors, the apartment evinces the couple’s admiration for European design. “Most of our things come from Europe,” Thomas says. “Every time we go there, we find things to bring home.” 

    Living room walls are upholstered in custom Italian linen velvet. The diminutive slipper chair hails from the Brimfield Antique Show. Homeowner and designer Thomas Burak reimagined it with red damask fabric and 18th-century gold trim pulled from a textile collection he stores in a closet. A pair of vases from John Rosselli grace the ornately detailed fireplace mantel; the gilded mirror is from a French antiques show. 

    Photography: Brittany Ambridge
    Produced by Tori Mellott

    Interior designer: Thomas Burak, Thomas Burak In​teriors; 212/475-5983; thomas@thomasburak.com. Michael Devine, Michael Devine Ltd., 10 Broad St., Kinderhook, NY 12106; 518/758-1355, michaeldevineltd.com.  

    Wallcovering; sofa fabric (Italian linen velvet): custom.
    Trim paint (custom color): Fine Paints of Europe, finepaintsofeurope.com.
    Ceiling paint (“Decorator’s White” #OC-149): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Drapery fabric (discontinued); small chair fabric (silk damask, discontinued); bergère fabric (silk damask, discontinued): Schumacher, fschumacher.com.
    Drapery trim (“3-inch Boucher Fine Bullion Fringe” #984-31650-133, colorway discontinued); cord trim on sofa (“3/8-inch French Cord with Tape” #981-19563-04); bullion trim on sofa (“8.25-inch French Bullion Fringe” #984-19573-04); tablecloth trim (“Orsay Silk Tassel Fringe” #985-34606-11): Samuel & Sons, samuelandsons.com.
    Sofa (custom): Phoenix Custom Furniture, 347/448-8416.
    Pink pillows on sofa (“Barberini”/Blackberry Texture #5657): Fortuny, fortuny.com.
    Floor lamp by sofa (“Triple Swing Arm Floor Lamp” #S1200): Circa Lighting, circalighting.com.
    Lampshade (custom): Blanche Field, blanchefield.com.
    Striped tablecloth on end table (“Karenza Stripe”/Jewel #2012138.972, used on reverse side): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
    Fauteuil fabric (Tiger Silk Velvet): Tessitura Luigi Bevilaqua, luigi-bevilacqua.com/en/.
    Coffee table: custom.
    Portraits behind sofa (vintage Russian Impressionist); area rug (antique Oushak); blue patterned pillow on sofa; red-and-green pillow (antique needlepoint); center pillow (antique Fortuny); small purple pillow (handmade petit-point by Michael Devine); lamp on end table (antique); boxes on end table (antique); fauteuil by sofa (antique); small chair (antique); small chair trim (18th-century metallic tape, tassel, and bullion); upholstered footstool under coffee table (antique); mantel; mirror over mantel (from Paris); vases on mantel (from John Rosselli); candlestick on mantel; fabric on walls flanking mantel (antique panels painted on canvas, from Paris flea market); console table to right of mantel; painted wood lamps on tables flanking mantel; footstool under console (in antique gauffrage mohair); bergère by fireplace; table by bergère (antique): owner’s collection.

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Textural Walls

    Especially antiques. In fact, when Thomas considers the new furnishings in the apartment, he pauses before listing only four: a sofa, bed, banquette, and coffee table. “Still, they’re all surrounded by old things,” he says. “Antiques bring warmth and character that new furniture just doesn’t.” 

    Luxuriously upholstered walls—custom Italian velvet in the living room and Thomas’ “Empire Lampas,” designed during his decade-plus tenure at F. Schumacher, in the dining room—unify with equally significant texture. “Upholstering walls gives them softness and dimension,” Thomas says. “Flat paint can’t give you that natural shading or that touch.”

    Chinoiserie cabinet (English Victorian, c. 1880);flanking cabinet (Venetian); framed etchings; chairs; lounge-chair and ottoman; floor lamp: antique.
    Chair fabric
    (embroidered horsehair, discontinued): Schumacher, fschumacher.com.
    Paintings to right of chair (Russian Impressionist); portrait behind chair (by Russian artist Igor Guk); small table by chair: vintage.
    Chair-and-ottoman fabric
    (“Mansfield Linen”/Larkspur #2004069.53): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
    Bullion fringe (“8.25 inch French Bullion Fringe” #984-19573-4): Samuel & Sons, samuelandsons.com.
    Lamp shade (custom): Blanche Field, blanchefield.com.

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Hallway

    In fact, textiles abound. A petit-point pillow Michael stitched as a gift to Thomas layers the linen velvet sofa with an alternate tactile sensation; drapery cascades from the bed frame. Even the bathtub is embellished with a valance and curtain—sewn from fabric that Michael designed, naturally.

    In the living room, hand-painted tapestries from the famed Marché aux Puces flea market in Paris flank the fireplace, proof of Thomas’ advice to purchase anything that makes you swoon. “I bought them long before I even owned this apartment,” he says. “They sat rolled up under the sofa for years.” Seemingly designed for this space, they were, he says, “meant to be.” 

    Wallcovering (hand-glazed stripe in custom color); trim paint hand-glazed in custom color): custom.
    Ceiling paint (“Decorator’s White” #OC-149): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Chandelier (reproduction of antique fixture); mirror (vintage); sunburst mirror (antique): owner’s collection.
    Animal-print rug: Patterson Flynn & Martin, pattersonflynnmartin.com

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Dining Room

    Thomas reserves special affection for trims of all sorts—cords, braids, fringes, and tassels are bountiful decorative gestures employed throughout the apartment. “I’m very detail-oriented,” he says. “There’s trim on all our upholstery. It adds a custom look to everything.”

    A framed antique Dufour wallpaper panel stars on one wall. The crystal chandelier is a Swedish antique.

    Artwork lighting (custom, with rounded shade): Ann-Morris Inc., ann-morris.com.
    Wallcovering (“Empire Lampas,” -discontinued): Schumacher, fschumacher.com.
    Trim paint: custom color glaze.
    Ceiling paint (“Decorator’s White” #OC-149): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Chandelier (Swedish antique): David Duncan Antiques, davidduncanantiques.com.
    Faux marble finish on table top: by C&R Decor Arts Ltd., c-r-decorarts.com.
    Cabinet to left of clock: custom.
    Dining chairs (Swedish antiques); clock (Swedish antique); framed artwork (antique Dufour wallpaper panel); dining table (vintage Baker); wall sconce (Swedish antique): owner’s collection

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Corner Cabinet

    Color, too, plays an important role. “Color gives a feeling for who you are,” Thomas notes. Conceived to journey from midtones at the entry to what Thomas terms “deep, moody” hues in the living room, grays in the dining room, and finally, lighter, more ethereal colors in the master bedroom, the apartment’s palette is united by a golden glow. “Gold is the common denominator,” Thomas says. “It ties everything together, but allows each room to have its own personality.”

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Dining Room

    A custom faux-marble finish tops the vintage Baker dining table encircled by Swedish chairs upholstered in tone-on-tone Schumacher horsehair. The shapely banquette is custom. 

    Wallcovering (“Empire Lampas,” discontinued); balloon shade (discontinued); drapery and trim (discontinued); chair-seat fabric (horsehair, discontinued): Schumacher, fschumacher.com.
    Trim paint: custom color glaze.
    Ceiling paint (“Decorator’s White” #OC-149): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Chandelier (Swedish antique): David Duncan Antiques, davidduncanantiques.com.
    Faux marble finish on table top: by C&R Decor Arts Ltd., c-r-decorarts.com.
    Vase on pedestal (antique cobalt hurricane): John Rosselli Antiques, johnrosselliantiques.com.
    Banquette (custom): Phoenix Custom Furniture, 347/448-8416.
    Banquette fabric (“Umbria”/Driftwood, by Old World Weavers, discontinued): Stark, starkcarpet.com.
    Banquette cord trim(“1/4-inch Normandy Silk Cord with Tape”/Nuance D’Or #981-41950-07); banquette braid trim (“1.4-inch Normandy Silk Handwoven Braid”/Nuance D’Or #977-41751-07): Samuel & Sons, samuelandsons.com.
    Framed artwork at banquette; clock to left of window (Swedish antique); drapery hardware (antique); dining table (vintage Baker); dining chairs (Swedish); pedestal by window (antique reproduction from Florence, Italy): owner’s collection.

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Elegant Tabletop

    Hand-painted “Charlotte” (salad plate) and “Thomas” (dinner plate and charger) porcelain dinnerware by Michael Devine Ltd. is accompanied by vintage flatware, St. Louis crystal stemware, and antique Sheffield candlesticks. Custom napkin is by Julia B. Couture Linens.

    Charger (“Thomas”/Gold); dinner plate (“Thomas”/Pearl); salad plate (“Charlotte”/Celeste Blue): Michael Devine Ltd., michaeldevineltd.com.
    Napkins (custom): Julia B. Couture Linens, juliab.com.
    Stemware (“Jersey Cut” by St. Louis Crystal, discontinued): Replacements, replacements.com.
    Candlesticks (antique Sheffield); flatware (“Braque” by Ricci Argentieri, vintage): owner’s collection.  

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Kitchen

    Those personalities are best expressed through objects collected over time. There’s the bedside lamp from a trip to Budapest. A wood carving toted home from Portugal. And of course, a cache of treasures from France, which the two have visited 20 times. 

    English Mulberry serveware is displayed in the petite kitchen's glass-front cabinets.

    Cabinetry: custom.
    Chandelier (antique tole); serveware (English Mulberry): owner’s collection.
    Window shade (“Classic Conrad Original Shades”/Tiger Eye” #243): Conrad, conradshades.com.
    Countertop: limestone.

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Etheral Bedroom

    “Yes, there is a lot to look at in this apartment,” Thomas says, “but nothing screams for your attention. It allows you to explore, to experience individual pieces of beauty in a way that unfolds.”

    The airy custom bed is a brushed-metal interpretation of an 18th-century design. Bed cover, skirt, and drapery are “Thomas” by Michael Devine Ltd.

    Wall and trim treatment (hand-glazed in custom color): custom.
    Ceiling paint (custom): Fine Paints of Europe, finepaintsofeurope.com.
    Carpet (“Kochi”/Birch #685 Designer Jute Collection): Fibreworks, fibreworks.com.
    Lights over bookcases (custom, with faceted shade): Ann-Morris Inc., ann-morris.com.
    Fabric on desk chair seat and pillow (“Tree Poppy Union”/Pink, Blue, Green #2053-03, by Colefax and Fowler): Cowtan & Tout, cowtan.com.
    Chair-seat trim (“1/4-inch Warwick Twist Cord with Tape”/Russet #981-30373-01); bed-cover trim (“1-inch French Grosgrain Ribbon”/Sable #977-44931-109); drapery trim (“1.5-inch Sabine Border”/Driftwood #977-56041-48); valance trim (“Harbour Serpentine Braid”/Flax #977-56507-03): Samuel & Sons, samuelandsons.com.
    Bed (custom): Morgik Metal Designs, morgik.com.
    Bed cover, bedskirt, drapery, and exterior bed drapery (“Thomas,” custom color): Michael Devine Ltd., michaeldevineltd.com.
    Pillowcases (“Meridian”): Matouk, matouk.com.
    Interior bed-drapery fabric (silk, discontinued); stool fabric (discontinued): Schumacher, fschumacher.com.
    Sconces (discontinued): Circa Lighting, circalighting.com.
    Lamp on desk (antique): David Duncan Antiques, davidduncanantiques.com.
    Artwork on windowsill; portraits on left bookcases (Russian Impressionist); desk chair (vintage): owner’s collection. bedskirt trim (discontinued); vintage toile for Euroshams; left bedside table; lamp on table (from Budapest); stool by table (antique); desk to right of bed (vintage Baker): owner’s collection. 

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Blue Bathroom

    Those pieces, he says, are happy reminders of trips taken and places visited. “We didn’t even know we needed them, but we bought them anyway,” Thomas says. “They’re not essential to life, but they’re essential to ours.

    As elegantly outfitted as the apartment’s more public spaces, the master bath features high-gloss custom paint from Fine Paints of Europe on walls and ceiling. Window and bath fabric is “Garden Folly” by Michael Devine Ltd.

    Wall and ceiling paint (custom color): Fine Paints of Europe, finepaintsofeurope.com.
    Trim paint: custom glaze in custom color.
    Vanity (“CC-26): Kerns-Wilcheck, kernswilcheck.com.
    Countertop: limestone.
    Sink; toilet: Kohler, kohler.com. Faucet (“Beaded Basin Set” #14201): P.E. Guerin, peguerin.com.
    Window and bath drapery (“Garden Folly”/String): Michael Devine Ltd., michaeldevineltd.com.
    Wooden beads on drapery (#MF40371): Passementerie Inc., 212/355-7600.
    Drapery base braid (“Munich”): Fabricut, fabricut.com.
    Drapery top braid (“1-inch Sabine Border”/Ivory #977-56043-13): Samuel & Sons, samuelandsons.com.
    Medicine cabinet (antique mirror made into medicine cabinet); sconces flanking mirror (vintage Italian); chandelier (antique, Paris flea market); etchings (antique): owner’s collection.

  • Brittany Ambridge

    Portrait

    Thomas Burak at right, with partner and fabric designer Michael Devine

  • Eric Piasecki
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