July 13, 2015

Foley&Cox Turn Two Apartments Into One With Architect Stephan Wang

Architect Stephen Wang and design firm Foley&Cox move walls and deploy a calculated palette to make two apartments feel like one

by Jorge S. Arango interior designer Foley & Cox Interior Design photographer Mark Roskams architecture Stephen Wang


When a forty-something couple with three children hired architect Stephen Wang to combine adjacent Upper East Side apartments, they took him to dinner at a favorite restaurant, Rouge Tomate. "It wasn't just to have a meal," he recalls. "They wanted to show me a certain feel."

The tailored contemporary aesthetic, warmed by woods and shot through with color (namely red), then led the team—which also included Christopher Clark of Clark Construction, who had recommended Wang—to the interior designers Mary Foley and Michael Cox. Their firm, Foley&Cox, says the wife of the couple, purveyed "a clean, sleek, minimalist style that was still inviting," and they embraced deeply saturated tones.

Conjoining apartments into one fluid whole is often challenging. "I always separate private and public spaces when I combine apartments," says Wang, who located the kitchen, living and dining rooms in one apartment, the four bedrooms and a library-guest room in the other. Wang then "scaled the rooms up so they felt like they were always meant to be that way," instead of simply repurposed from a previous floor plan. The strategy worked particularly well in the entry hall, imparting a sense of arrival and importance, and in the corridor connecting the formerly segregated residences. In this latter case, widening the hall and making it into a kids' hangout and homework station metamorphosed a mere conveyance between apartments into an actual room, successfully obliterating the sense of division.

"Views were very important," adds Foley. French doors opening onto terraces surround both apartments, so preserving a minimally interrupted continuity of views became another unifying gambit. To that end, explains Foley, "Light fixtures were kept close to the ceiling." Deco touches—a chair silhouette here, a scalloped molding there—gave public rooms a cosmopolitan sophistication.

To enhance the new oneness, the designers used color to lead the eye seamlessly from public to private spaces. "They talked to us about how, culturally, they weren't afraid of color," says Cox of his clients, an Indian financial services executive and his Argentinian lawyer wife. The entry, pure white, functions as a gallery for the couple's growing contemporary art collection.

Directly opposite the front door is a jewel-like dining room showcasing high-gloss lacquered eggplant walls. That color, repeated but expressed in the aubergine mohair of two custom swivel chairs in the living room to the right, relates the spaces. From the dining room, purple morphs into a companion color, red, deployed as accents throughout the kitchen and the transformed corridor.

From there, each resident's individual personality asserts itself. "Your kids spend much more time in their bedrooms than you do," notes the wife. "They wanted to be involved in the process." So Foley and Cox both interviewed them. The eldest boy, says Foley, requested something "more masculine and grown up" (presto—brown- and white-striped walls); the daughter liked blues and greens (hello powder blue, lichens, and sages); and the first-grader didn't have strong opinions but loved family travel (ergo, his map-papered wall). The master bedroom palette of neutrals and salmon pink was drawn from a rug brought from the couple's previous apartment.

Call it the new math, where one plus one equals...one.