You are here

Rustic Charm in a Greenwich Village Apartment

2014 New Trad designer Jenny Wolf takes a New York apartment from modern to traditional with old-world touches

Written by Abigail Stone

“She was changing her life, and she wanted a home that reflected her new direction,” designer Jenny Wolf says of her client Kate Gilman and the Greenwich Village, New York, apartment Wolf created for her.  

A Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic sofa, a rush chair, and a bobbin chair make a traditional statement around a coffee table by Lars Bolander. The side tables are apple crates.

Kate had left a promising law career behind to launch Petal by Pedal, which delivers locally grown flowers and floral arrangements by bicycle around New York City. “Kate wanted the apartment to feel more industrial, but with traditional elements,” Wolf says. Taking the new company as inspiration, the designer created an abode in a style she refers to as “rustic charm.”

Found at an estate sale, the distressed wood mantel was aged and refinished by painter John Owen to look like stone.

Unlike spaces that require new owners to use their imagination to see the beauty beneath the faded glory, the 800-square-foot home had recently been renovated. “It was perfect,” Wolf says of the interior that was her canvas. But the sleek, modern space wasn’t the cozy retreat her client was envisioning, so Wolf commenced work by swapping modern touches for old-world details. “We even changed out the switches to bronze with mother of pearl,” Wolf says. 

New brass rim locks from Baldwin, distressed to look old, replaced hardware throughout the home.

Dark mahogany floors went out in favor of 10-inch-wide reclaimed wood planks that extend all the way into the bathroom, where a new shower—made elegant with custom-designed steel-and-glass doors—replaced a tub. Dramatic black walls add further polish.

Over a pedestal sink from Waterworks, a brass-framed mirror replaces the bathroom’s original medicine chest. Black paint from Benjamin Moore gives the small bathroom drama and depth. Visible in the mirror are Robert Longo prints from the client’s personal collection.

Wolf designed the black steel-framed doors for the new oversized shower stall. The custom Nero Marquina basket-weave shower floor with Carrara dots is also from Waterworks

Some of the cabinets in the galley kitchen followed the tub out the door, making way for a cozy banquette and café table that perch under a window overlooking a courtyard. White cabinets were given a wash of gray-green paint. 

A heritage-style range, reclaimed wood-plank floors, a farm sink, and slate countertops un-modernized this space. Panels in some of the cabinet doors were removed and replaced with chicken wire for a country vibe. The paper lining the back of the cabinet above was found at Secondhand Rose in New York. 

A modern oven was swapped for a heritage-style Bertazzoni range and matching hood. Slate countertops, chicken-wire cabinet-door inserts, and a rich damask wallpaper lining the cabinets enhance the room’s new warmth.

Chicken wire panels backed by fabric add charm and discreetly camouflage hardworking kitchen storage.

“Everyone who walks in feels relaxed,” says Wolf, who gave the home’s functionality her undivided attention. A drop-leaf table that serves as a console can replace the coffee table, making dinner for 10 in the small space a reality.  

A banquette in the breakfast nook was topped with a cushion of black-and-white ticking, offering an inviting seat for coffee breaks or for working. The faceted, mirrored pendant light from Laurin Copen Antiques and a chalkboard with a narrow silver-leaf border add subtle glamour to the quiet corner.

A vintage floor lamp from Grand & Water Antiques and a small bureau from Caroline Faison Antiques anchor the otherwise light bedroom. A striped rug and delicately patterned pillows add further visual interest. 

“This is New York City living,” the designer says matter-of-factly. “Space is always a challenge.” 

Jenny Wolf’s tips for a small space:

  • Dark paint provides depth. It may seem counterintuitive, but painting a small space a dark hue can actually make it feel bigger.
  • Mirrors open up a space. Consider putting them opposite windows to catch the light.
  • Color adds height. Paint the ceiling the same color as the walls to meld them together and give the effect of a taller space.
  • Rooms must multitask. Always keep in mind the different functions a room will serve.
  • Silver leaf expands a ceiling.  Like mirrors, this treatment helps bounce light around the space to make it feel open and airy.

Photography: Emily Gilbert

Traditional Home