Primary Colors And Graphic Furniture Silhouettes Fill This Manhattan Apartment

When Andy Warhol said, “Art is what you can get away with,” he probably didn’t envision it as an appropriate design stratagem for an apartment in this 19th-century Manhattan building. Erected in 1866 to stable the horses of the American Express Company (when it was actually an express transport concern for “goods, valuables and specie”), the stately brick edifice on a cobblestone Tribeca street barely three blocks long presents a sober, restrained countenance to the world.

And then there’s this.

Designer Judy Dunne’s clients were a lively fortysomething couple with three children and a full-time residence elsewhere. For their pied-à-terre, she explains, “They love color, and they wanted a fun space that was practical for a family and also easy to maintain.” At first, the idea was to simply furnish the place. But when a major leak sprang from over the kitchen, she recalls, “It inspired us to renovate. A misfortune turned into a happy accident.” Newly expanded, it’s new total is a 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom loftlike apartment.

Avid art aficionados, the couple collects important works, most of them, not surprisingly, in a zingy Pop Art palette: Warhol, Tom Wasselmann, Mel Bochner, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cindy Sherman. That explains the predominantly primary color palette against a white architectural envelope. “It’s all about texture, color and exuberance,” explains Dunne. One would have to take her at her word.

How else to grok, for instance, the kitchen eating nook? Dunne upholstered the banquette, which faces two bright blue molded-plastic chairs, in a spirited Alexander Girard pattern that says, “Good morning!!!” in no uncertain terms. Or the cherry red Poltrona Frau dining chairs under the Ambraczyk Studio chandelier from Ralph Pucci? And it might behoove overnight guests to be fans of Queen Elizabeth, since a Flavor Paper wallcovering multiplies Her Royal Highness’s visage Warhol-style, to cover the wall behind the guestroom bed. (This is the man, after all, who also said, “I think it would be terrific if everyone was alike.”)

The husband is a major music buff. So, a bookcase segregating a lounging niche in the open-plan’s main space not only disguises an unmovable column, says Dunne, but its design is “based on a quadratic diffuser. It’s also convenient to the turntable.” And the Barcelona chairs here that beckon you to sit and listen to the sound emanating from her client’s custom Oswald Mills speakers? An audacious azure, of course.

Photography by Michel Arnaud.

For more like this Manhattan apartment be sure to check out this Park Slope Brownstone.

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