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New York Loft with Live-it-up Style

2011 New Trad designer Sara Gilbane enlivens TriBeCa loft with an arty edge

Written by Candace Ord Manroe

“The cool factor was there,” designer Sara Gilbane admits of the postwar apartment she designed for young clients in TriBeCa. “What was missing was coziness. It was too ‘showhousey’ and didn’t feel lived in.”

Her job was to make the loft livable without sacrificing its arty edge. “This couple was basically lost in their loft,” she laughs.

A couple of things—the salmon draperies and the navy blue sofa—were decided before Gilbane was brought in. “I loved the long, navy tufted sofa, and the windows were so tall that replacing the salmon silk draperies would’ve been a big chunk of our budget.” So those givens were her jumping-off point for the loft’s design.

Though acceptable, the draperies required some dressmaker detailing for a warmer flair. “We added a sky blue Greek key tape trim and outlined it in deep coral wooden bobble fringe,” says the designer. “Without that, they just projected the look of dead salmon—and once you’ve pictured dead salmon, you’re toast.”

Besides projecting warmth, the tape trim integrated the window treatments into the rest of the design. Gilbane introduced sky blue throughout. “We added a little sky blue sofa in a nubby linen, which is the first thing you see when you enter. It’s very tailored—so clean it almost looks like it’s wearing a tuxedo. I love juxtapositions like the very soft and squishy big navy blue sofa and this small, very tailored one.”

To define the palette, Gilbane designed a large-scale-patterned custom rug. “They’d been looking at classics like Oushaks, but the big scale of this really works here,” she explains. The flat-weave rug features a field of pale blue, with designs articulated in bold coral bands with white in between.

Ivory walls that read yellow—“and these clients are not at all yellow people,” insists their designer—were corrected with painted stripes “that a decorative painter whipped up in tan and ivory metallic. They sparkle at night when the chandeliers are on for that rock-star vibe—in a good way,” she laughs.

Tufted chairs ensure comfort for dining while their pale gold upholstery adds understated glamour. The large painting is by Natasha Law. The lotus pendant chandelier is one of many unexpected touches that keep the loft lively.

The owners opted for a timeless sophistication in the nursery, where the hand-painted wall stripes are upended to run vertically. A bright raspberry fabric covers the ottoman and the rocker.

What traditional means to designer Sara Gilbane: A warm and inviting space. Oushak carpets, tufted sofas, Farrow & Ball striped wallpaper, Phillip Jeffries grass cloth, F. Schumacher velvet, slipper chairs, an animal-print rug, Oscar de la Renta for Lee Jofa, antique mirrors any and everywhere, folding screens to soften the corners of a room, the luxury of upholstered walls in a bedroom or library. 

Photography: Patrick Cline

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