City Samba: South-American Inspired Design by Glenn Gissler

Custom leather L-shaped banquette in the dining room creates a cozy nook for happy and comfortable meals.

South America meets North America: You can take the people out of São Paulo, but you can’t take São Paulo out of the people. This couple engaged designer Glenn Gissler to adapt their NYC pied-à-terre with a warmth and energy that speaks to their proud Brazilian roots. Facing south from the 25th floor, the apartment is bathed in sun with spectacular East River and city views.

The midcentury pottery collection on the table is American, but speaks to the kind of earthiness associated with South America.
One-arm sleeper sofa and Art Deco-style table in ebonized wood. ZigZag chair designed by Gerrit Rietveld, circa 1934. Collection of primitive head rests from Africa combined with midcentury ceramics.

Sometimes, you can bottle up the essence of a place you love and carry it into another space. Right after a prominent husband and wife (he a well-known researcher and clinical oncologist, she a child psychologist) closed on this Upper East Side apartment, they enlisted Gissler to make it theirs. Their home is in São Paulo, and they wanted their new part-time space to reflect the life they embrace in the bustling, global Brazilian metropolis.

“I think they may have found me on the internet,” says Gissler, who might be easy to find because he designed a striking penthouse for fashion designer Michael Kors. “They had only a couple of days in New York before leaving again. We met, had a first date and fell for each other. Their spirit is infectious; they are a warm, intelligent and happy couple who were open to collaboration.” His team met with the homeowners a couple more times during stopovers to review drawings, furniture and textiles.


The rich coffee color wall-to-wall carpet in the bedroom creates a grounding cozy space.

Finding a Happy Place

Antique Thebes chair with leather seat, and quirky green Arts & Crafts pottery, print by Robert Motherwell, vintage Moroccan area rug. Suspended light fixture designed by PH5 Lamp by Paul Henningsen 1958. The midcentury abstract painting continues the earthy palette of the apartment.

“Their children are grown and they have grandchildren, but they are very young at heart, playful and fun to be with,” notes Gissler, a Milwaukee native who holds degrees in fine arts and architecture from Rhode Island School of Design. The couple had spent years in New York when the husband was completing his medical training, and they embraced the city’s pulse and pace. Though they travel all over the world, they often stop in the Big Apple, and they welcome their family to come and stay with them there whenever possible. (That’s where the sleeper sofa comes in.) They also like the idea of being able to entertain, even if on a modest scale.

The design team looked to reflect the joy and zest – the spirit – of the couple and the Brazilian city while creating a comfortable, no-fuss environment for periodic stays.

“It was a two-bedroom, but we changed the layout by adding a large pocket door between the living room and the second bedroom, with a convertible sleep sofa and a built-in work desk to allow for flexible use of the apartment when guests visit,” explains Gissler.

Orange Zest

The owners envisioned a comfortable, warm and relaxed modern environment that would be easy to maintain. The designer’s answer: rich textures, earthy colors with orange accents, and an eclectic mix of furnishings and artwork to create a retro-modern space.


In the living room, a vintage orange stoneware lamp, circa 1960s, helps define a retromodern environment.

“We carried the orange into the second bedroom by painting the back wall of the built-in bookcase orange, too,” he adds.

The design also includes a big, plump L-shaped sectional sofa near the window and a generously sized wood coffee table for a roomy multipurpose surface. A low, roughly hewn wood storage unit houses audio equipment, serving pieces and table linens to keep things clutter- and cord-free. The large mirror over the storage unit expands the view and makes the space seem larger.

The bedroom features a dressing table with small wall-mounted drawers, a vintage wood stool, and an oval beveled mirror for a little glamour and a lot of style. All the natural wood throughout also evokes the tropical place that the couple holds close to their hearts. Gissler-NYC-7

Viva Brazil!

Photography by Gross and Daley
Interior Design by Glenn Gissler Design

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