April 12, 2016

Tara Seawright Gives a Pre-War Upper East Side Apartment a Hip Attitude

Designer Tara Seawright uses color and cut velvet to explode pre-war apartment conventions for a young Manhattan family.

by Jorge S. Arango interior designer Tara Seawright photographer Anastassios Mentis


By: Jorge S. Arango. Stylist: Barbara L. Dixon. Interior Design: Tara Seawright.

Photography: Anastassios Mentis.

At a time when Manhattan's hottest (read: most expensive) real estate is concentrated in glass towers such as the Millennium, Baccarat, and One57, it's tempting to think of Upper East Side pre-war apartments as relics of an older aspirational ideal. For an attitude adjustment, however, consider the residence Tara Seawright designed for thirtysomething clients with two young children.

"They are young, cool and fashionable so I wanted to make this formal space hipper," says Seawright. In the large gallery beyond the elevator foyer that leads to the apartment's other rooms, the designer "imagined a chic hand-painted Chinese wallpaper that would feel like walking into a garden." She had to rethink that idea. "When I priced it out it was a gazillion dollars and my client said, 'Tara, one stroke of a crayon and there goes $50,000 worth of wallpaper.' It was impractical."

Switching course, she swathed it in a hand-painted metallic celadon strié. But the spirit of the originally conceived wallpaper determined the palette for the remaining rooms. This is not your mother's pre-war pad. Seawright's approach to color makes it au courant. The living room features large recessed panels papered in a rippling metallic gold-and-blue pattern, with furniture upholstered in pale blue, pumpkin, and gray. The grass cloth-wrapped dining room has a coral-and-magenta rug and drapes and chairs covered in pink faux snakeskin. Swing around and you see a hallway sporting terra cotta walls.

"I wanted the feeling of traveling as you move through the rooms," says Seawright. Using shades that weren't deeply saturated, however, ensured against a color overdose. "I like graying down colors so they have more longevity."

Though Seawright sidestepped a full-on psychedelic acid trip, a discernable retro-cool pervades the space. Jeffrey Fine, of Pier, Fine Associates revamped a bad 1980s remodel. "We brought back a period feel, but with a cleaner interpretation of pre-war moldings," says Fine. Furniture forms are largely traditional, but they are upholstered in cut velvets reminiscent of the 1960s and '70s.

The boy's bathroom is a study in blue, with fabrics from Osborne & Little, and Artistic Tile on the walls and floor.
The boy's bathroom is a study in blue, with fabrics from Osborne & Little, and Artistic Tile on the walls and floor.

*Interested in more articles like this? Sign up for our Newsletter!