March 9, 2015

A Young Manhattan Couple Expand Their Chelsea Loft

With architect Nancy Nienberg, New York-based designer Damon Liss creates a Chelsea duplex in NYC for a modern family.

by Arlene Hirst interior designer Damon Liss Design photographer Trevor Tondro architecture Wunderground Architecture


When a young Manhattan couple decided that their 1800-square-foot Chelsea loft was too small for their family—they have three sons, all under the age of ten—they bought the identical apartment upstairs to provide room to grow. To find professional help, they asked the owners of two of their favorite stores, ROOM and BDDW, leading downtown purveyors of contemporary furniture, for recommendations. That's how they discovered Damon Liss, a New York interior designer with a keen eye for great mid-century furniture and an appealing portfolio.

Liss describes the project as a full gut renovation, on which he collaborated with Nancy Nienberg, founding principal of wUNDERground Architecture, a Brooklyn-based firm with which he previously worked. Pre-renovation, explains Liss, there was a living area on one side of the apartment and bedrooms on the other; a small galley kitchen divided the two. After the renovation, the first floor now has a family room, a bigger kitchen area with an eat-in family dining area, plus a living room and a formal dining room as well. Sleeping quarters are upstairs.

Not all the interventions were architectural in nature. Liss used sheer curtains both in the living room and master bedroom suite to camouflage the view-challenged and irregularly shaped windows.

The clients were actively involved in the overall project, but left the details to Liss, who selected almost all the furniture, showing them images for their approval. Almost all of the old furnishings were replaced. "Now there's a ton of vintage pieces since the couple have a strong mid-century aesthetic," he says.

He fine-tuned the palette to the homeowners' wishes. "They loved autumn colors. They wanted subtle shades that were soothing and relaxing; not jarring." Liss used low-VOC Farrow & Ball paints throughout, as well as non-toxic products wherever possible. "The goal wasn't so much to be green, but to minimize risks to the kids," he says.

Besides working with architect Nienberg, Liss also brought in lighting and audio-video consultants, pointing out that everyone benefits when working with experts in their field. "Who knows better?" he asks.