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
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."
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.
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.
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