A warm, west coast interior makes a home a Big Apple apartment
Flip-flops. Slipcovers. Open windows with the scent of saltwater wafting through the air. This easy-breezy lifestyle is often the result of an intense love affair with Southern California. So when Lynn Patchett, who had lived in the Golden State from the day she was born, moved across the continent to New York City to be near her two grown children, she also packed up and transported some of the coveted California culture that had been her milieu for decades.
In a New York minute, Lynn nixed the idea of incorporating dark tones, modern lines, and open loft spaces—emblems of the Manhattan residential scene—into her new digs. Instead, she hired designers to create a warm scheme that is the epitome of casually chic West Coast interiors.
“I had lived in California my entire life and loved the lifestyle,” says Lynn. “I knew I wanted an apartment with lots of windows and a terrace, as I couldn’t imagine not being able to open a door and step outside. Most important, because I was giving up my house in California, I wanted my children, who now live in New York, to see pieces that they had grown up with and feel comfortable when visiting my apartment.”
Furnishings from a house significantly larger than the Upper East Side apartment she was moving into provided Lynn with an ample inventory of furniture, rugs, and accessories from which she could outfit her new home. The challenge was editing, and that’s why Lynn called on professionals to help identify which items should be stored or sold, and which should be taken to New York.
Lynn’s Los Angeles interior designer made a transcontinental introduction, connecting her to the New York team of Benjamin Bradley and David Thiergartner, whose portfolio Lynn reviewed, happily discovering that their aesthetic sensibilities aligned with hers. Her former designer also supplied the East Coast design duo with a comprehensive list of Lynn’s decorative pieces that were assessed for adaptability to the proportions of her urban quarters. Existing upholstered furniture and certain rugs were oversized to fit her California-scaled house and so were a no-go. But what remained was an interesting assemblage of case goods with Asian influences, medium-scaled rugs, and a substantial collection of contemporary art that—when placed in the apartment—would give Lynn a familiar sense of home.
With the list of her treasures to aid design direction, Lynn decided the only missing pieces were her own ideas. She composed an e-mail to Bradley and Thiergartner that articulated how she wanted her home to feel, along with traits that define her personality. This upfront exercise shifted the client-designer service to a true meeting of the minds.
“There are two kinds of clients,” explains Bradley. “There are those who come with nothing and want us to create a new life for them. In that case, we become more teachers, to help bring to fruition design they were never able to visualize on their own. But with Lynn, we were able to get a good print of who she is, and that’s when a project becomes more personal versus stylistic.”
After all the basic information was analyzed, the designers went to work, and that involved not only a decorative face-lift but a structural redo, as well. The public spaces of the apartment were redone to make them more useful.
Take the foyer, for instance. In its original state, a dark constricting hallway greeted Lynn as she entered the front door. The designers aspired to a friendlier reception, so they fashioned a larger foyer anchored by a vintage Asian cabinet where Lynn can drop her mail and keys. The foyer also serves as a sophisticated teaser to the chic living room, which ripples with waves of color and movement—like that of the Pacific Ocean Lynn left behind.
A rug from her decorative arsenal seemed to be the perfect springboard for the living room palette; unfortunately, it was too small. “When you put a small rug into a big room, you get a small room,” explains Thiergartner. “People are drawn to move the furniture close to the rug, which wastes useful space around it.” The duo found a way to use the rug anyway. They laid down a larger sea-grass floor covering of the right dimensions, then topped it with Lynn’s Asian area rug. The larger rug was bound in leather, then handsomely secured to the floor with brass nailheads.
Sans architectural details, the post-war apartment begged for a wall treatment richer and more complex than a simple sheath of paint. Grass cloth in a hue Bradley describes as berry-clotted cream gives the living room perimeters integrity and bows to other elements that promote California dreaming rather than urban edginess. Natural woven shades at the windows can be pulled up to unveil the spectacular Manhattan skyline. Subtly gracing the floors, a skirted club chair and sofa allude to the unstructured slipcovers of coastal living. Opposite, two walls of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves provide a storage paradise for bibliophile Lynn. The adjoining walls also create a cozy nook for a comfortable chair and ottoman.
New to the city, Lynn invites family, friends, and neighbors to her home but doesn’t entertain elaborately. A formal dining room was not needed, so furnishings that would have labeled the space “formal”—a crystal chandelier, matching chairs around the table, and silk fabrics with a sheen—were eliminated from the schematics. Circling the round table, vintage caned chairs mingle companionably with new chairs covered in blue linen velvet. “Linen velvet is more casual,” explains Bradley. “It crushes and gains a patina over time, so it doesn’t read dressy.”
Burdened with complicated construction issues, the kitchen was the one area of the apartment where Lynn agreed to a sleeker, more contemporary look. Support columns that were not shown on the original plan and proved impossible to move were an unpleasant surprise. The designers’ answer was a split kitchen, with the support wall dividing the area into two spaces, one for food preparation and one for eating.
An unobstructed pass-through between the two spaces allows Lynn to speak with guests sitting at the bar while she cooks. The designers disguised the unattractive support wall by cutting into it and adding shelves that house Lynn’s glassware, a solution that gives the impression of a design decision that was intentional rather than mandated by structural elements.
Lynn’s bedroom glows with sunlight pouring in through windows and French doors. A citrusy palette triggered by the printed fabric used for draperies adds to the room’s luster. The bed, made rarefied with gold leaf finials topping the corner posts, is complemented by soft linens in butter yellow.
With most of her apartment finished, and a second bedroom and terraces still in the works, Lynn couldn’t feel more comfortable in her new East Coast aerie.
“I had gone through a country stage, a Zen/modern stage, and then my traditional stage,” says Lynn. “The fact that Benjamin and David could meld pieces from these various styles together into a small, New York space and give them their own original and unconventional spin is a testament to their talents and the power of good design. Everything I love is here, just scaled down.”
Interior design: Benjamin Bradley and David Thiergartner, Bradley Thiergartner Interiors, P.O. Box 827, New York, NY 10150; 212/779-1717, bradleythiergartnerinteriors.com 
Photography: Francesco Lagnese
A caned faux bamboo chair confirms the apartment’s lighthearted disposition. With its gilding and sumptuous cushions in aubergine velvet, the chair from Dessin Fournir commands attention but doesn’t seem out of place among comfy upholstered pieces. The sofa is from Rose Tarlow-Melrose House.
Mementos from the past guide the style of the living room. One-of-a-kind pieces can be found on virtually every surface, mixing East and West with ancient and contemporary.
Organic shapes and patterns throughout Lynn’s home bring the calmness of the beach to soothe the calamity of the city. Here, exotic ornaments play on the smooth surface of a leather bench in the living room.
In the foyer, a pair of chinoiserie chairs flank a Chinese cabinet topped with matching Asian lamps and a mirror stretching to the ceiling.
The design team gave the dining room exotic flair with an Indian-style wall covering from Jasper by Michael S Smith. At the windows, panels in sheer linen from Rose Tarlow-Melrose House hang over matchstick shades and whisper privacy. The oval-backed dining chairs are by Artistic Frame. Lynn’s existing collection of contemporary artwork and Asian pieces smoothed her shift to new digs. Details on the following slide.
A wooden Asian-inspired chair lends its sensual pattern to the harmonious mood of the rest of Patchett’s home. When its gilded finish catches glints of sunlight, the ornate motif of the chair comes to life.
There is a seamless transition between the living and dining rooms, with patterns and colors complemented by natural light. Note Lynn’s original Asian rug accompanied by the sea-grass floor covering to enlarge the space of the sitting area.
In the kitchen, a sepia-toned wall covering with a faded batik motif by Rose Tarlow and rubber flooring that alleviates fatigue from standing on a hard surface help temper the sheen of stainless steel appliances. Calcutta Gold marble is used as a backsplash for the Viking range. Artwork adds an intimate, personal touch to the small work space.
A pass-through connects the kitchen’s separate prep and eating areas. Calcutta Gold marble countertops in gray and white matching the backsplash sit on SieMatic contemporary cabinetry with a honey-tone finish.
Designers Benjamin Bradley and David Thiergartner created architecture in a corner by building shelves for book storage over Sheetrock walls. This is where homeowner Lynn Patchett spends a lot of time.
A shallow console in the hallway displays Chinese paintbrushes and a statue of Buddha. An antique Kilim rug was used to upholster the bench underneath.
Sunlight streaming through windows and French doors highlights an Asian desk and chair. A bed with a painted finish is dressed in linens by Eileen Fisher for Garnet Hill. Draperies are by Clarence House. Details on the following slide.
On the nightstand to the left of the bed, another small Buddha rests his feet atop a stack of books.
Tucked in a corner in front of mirrored closet doors is a chaise longue, perfectly cozy for reading or writing thank-you notes.
Shell-topped bottles are displayed on the chest of drawers. A unique iridescent lamp mirrors the sheen of the seashells as well as the framework above. Details on the following slide.
“I definitely think my new apartment reflects who I am better than any other place I’ve lived,” says homeowner Lynn Patchett.
A bronze basin by Ann Sacks on an old desk transforms a windowless bath.
From her terrace, Lynn has a captivating view of the Central Park Reservoir.