Andrew Wilkinson belongs to the rare breed of people who felt their calling from a very young age. In his case, 4th grade. Growing up in a ranch-style suburban home he watched his father fix, build and tinker throughout the house and it was this exposure that piqued his interest in architecture and sparked his passion for drawing. Later in life at his high school reunion, classmates would nod in true “no-brainer” fashion upon learning of his studies and career in the architectural and design world. Founding his eponymous firm in 2000, Wilkinson approaches each project giving equal weight to creative solutions and client favor.
Such is the case with a couple who lived in Wilkinson’s New York City building – friends turned clients – with three children. The couple sought a move further downtown to be closer to their social circles and children’s schools and in doing so, came across a 2500 square foot, four bedroom duplex in a deconsecrated church, now a residential building in Manhattan’s West Village. Wilkinson led the renovation and partnered with the client’s interior designer, Karen Wright, to create an elevated, edgy and comfortable space for the family of five.
As is ideal for architects and designers, Wilkinson’s team was brought into the process early on, when the clients made an offer. It proved particularly important for this project as several challenges quickly presented themselves, including a rigorous permitting process – one that would cause Wilkinson’s team to pivot throughout design development – as well as undoing the shell of drywall and paint significant of developers’ MO’s during the 1980’s.
Wilkinson saw an opportunity to balance a refined sensibility with the rustic and exposed tectonics of the building, all while incorporating inventive, artistic solutions for planning, storage and utility. Peeling away this white-walled shell meant unleashing the storied, exposed cast iron beams and giving focus to the existing dropped-beam ceiling, both “a window into what the building was,” says Wilkinson.
Material selections are reflective of this balance as well. In the kitchen, lacquered uppers in a warm blue-gray are divided by rough sawn planks that extend beyond into display shelves suspended with metal rods. There is also a theme of movement in the kitchen, from the tiled marble backsplash and honed Aquasol Quartzite countertop – a true find by Wright – to the beautiful striation of the lower walnut cabinetry. In the living room, the same rough sawn plank starts as the fireplace mantle and continues as the top of a series of cabinets with angled door faces. These cabinets are perched on a platform made of honed Basaltina slab that carries over to the staircase, the pièce de résistance of this duplex apartment.
The single biggest influence on the staircase design was born of one of the client’s generations-long family traditions: using the stairs as the setting for family photos. Wilkinson took this to heart turning what was once the humdrum task of hanging one’s head low to ascend (or descend) to the next level into an experience of gorgeous, curious materials and artful suggestion. Blackened steel and exposed fasteners – not as a reference to industrial, rather a nod to older construction methods – meet solid American walnut on the exposed, open treads and rift cut white oak planks as a backdrop. Worth mentioning is the shadow the stairway casts on the carefully selected pre-engineered wood floor, another element adding to the overall experience. Wilkinson’s team spent countless hours and underwent numerous models to get the stairs just right and the result “left a certain amount of grit; it doesn’t look like it is brand new, but it is articulated in a modern way,” says Wilkinson.
Furnishings throughout include a mix of vintage and transitional pieces and in the living room, fabrics are kept in tonal grays with the slightest hints of color brought in through accessories. The family room explores color a little further and feels slightly more playful, with inky blues, orange, teal and purple. The master bath has a serenity that Wilkinson loves and contrast and depth is provided by the “walnut [finish] on the vanity drawer front in an otherwise visually quiet space,” says Wilkinson. The bathroom is divided into wet and dry areas with glistening, curvilinear glass tiles in white from Walker Zanger throughout.
Wilkinson crafted the perfect handshake between a polished aesthetic and the significant moments of the building’s past; he created a space that is respectful, comfortable, extremely relevant and perfectly suited for those who call it home.
Photography by Garrett Rowland.
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