August 23, 2017

Lilian Bakhash Brings Color and a Dose of Whimsy to an Apartment on East 87th Street

A redo injects a restrained interior with a full spectrum of art-inspired hues.

by Jorge S. Arango interior designer Lilian B. Interiors photographer Eric Striffler

Lilian Bakhash and William Engel
In the bookcase, William Engel’s Persian Rose references den and dining room colors, as well as the orange of Property’s Carlton armchairs. The Bokara rug and black Nanz hardware add graphic punch.
William Engel + Lilian Bakhash
In the den, Benjamin Moore’s Purplicious wraps the room, while the
company’s Million Dollar Red accents the coffers, and Nanimarquina’s
Roses rug enlivens the floor. The clients’ sofa was recovered in
Maharam fabric and trimmed with Houlès red piping. Yellow
Christopher Spitzmiller lamps pull in color from the adjacent great room.

DURING THE GIDDY 1970s transition from hippie chic to disco dazzle, Gimbel's department store on East 87th Street peddled all manner of eye-popping goods. When Skidmore Owings & Merrill converted the building to white, loft-like apartments in 1989, however, it took on a reserved demeanor that reflected decidedly more sober times. The owner of this unit, who moved here in the early 2000s, worked with some of the more traditional existing touches (a crystal chandelier, classic trims) and added others (white ceiling coffers, more conservative furniture silhouettes).

Last year, however, the owner and her husband decided to liven things up, so they put designer Lilian Bakhash and her frequent collaborator, painter William Engel, on the job. The pair had recently designed the boutique hotel The William, where, says Bakhash, "Bill's paintings in the elevator lobbies inspired the color palettes for each floor." So for this apartment, adds Engel, "We kept thinking how art and design could be merged. Instead of art coming in later as an addition, it could be integrated."

Lilian Bakhash William Engel
Left: Benjamin Moore’s Bright Gold shocks the coffers awake amid the lavender-gray serenity of walls painted the company’s Whisper. A David Weeks floor lamp illuminates Larson sofas from Property Furniture. Right: The passionate prevailing mood in the dining room is expressed with Benjamin Moore’s Raspberry Glaze and floor-to-ceiling curtains made from Dedar red silk (through Jerry Pair). Bespoke chairs fabricated by Esquire Custom Upholstery are dressed in Kvadrat’s Steelcut 553. Suspended above the table is a crystal chandelier that came with the apartment.
Lilian Bakhash and WIlliam Engel
Ascending, another painting by Engel, draws colors from the left and
right halls above a Comerford Collection Bellagio bench.

They started in the chocolate brown den, a color, notes Engel, "that people did ten years ago. What was another color we would do now that had the same saturation but would move more toward a deep color than an earth tone?" They hit on an inky plum purple. The room looks across, through French doors to a great room and, beyond, the dining room. The great room, painted a lavender-tinged gray, functioned as the more neutral space, providing a transition into the raspberry red dining room.

"In each room," notes Bakhash, "everything—walls, woodwork and so on—was painted the same color. It's all about purple or all about red, so you're immersed in the color." Complementing the prevailing hue are touches of the opposite room's color: in the den, a red rug and red in the coffer recesses; in the dining room, purple in the coffer recesses. A predominantly red and purple Engel painting in the great room bookshelves draws on both these spaces, but adds orange, a reference to the great room's chair upholstery. On the opposite wall, another painting pulls together watermelon from the red master bedroom visible down the hall to the left and citrines from the yellow bedroom down the hall on the right.

lilian bakhash and william engel
Left: ABC Home linens contrast with Benjamin Moore Watermelon Red walls and a Kvadrat Star 547-wrapped headboard. Right: Throw pillows in the den echo the vibrant Houlès piping on the sofa.


Bakhash repainted and reupholstered much of the existing furniture in complementary shades, but added tailored, square-armed sofas and contemporary lighting to bring things up to date. Snazzy, lively and graphic, you now feel subsumed in a composition that's equal parts Pop Art and 21st-century design.

Designer Tatiana Bacci is responsible for the pristine Poggenpohl kitchen, white enhanced by glass backsplashes reverse-painted with Benjamin Moore's Orange Parrot.
Designer Tatiana Bacci is responsible for the pristine Poggenpohl kitchen, white enhanced by glass backsplashes reverse-painted with Benjamin Moore’s Orange Parrot.

Lilian Bakhash and William Engel

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