Home Tour: A Young Designer’s Chic Pre-War Apartment
“It is every decorator’s wish to furnish rooms with beautiful bones,” says interior designer Lauren McGrath of McGrath II, a firm she founded with her mother and partner, Suzanne McGrath. That wish came true for the young decorator when she and boyfriend, celebrity hairstylist Chris Lospalluto, discovered their one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Located in a landmarked Georgian mansion (a former single-family home) designed by architects Clinton and Russell in 1890, the building is perfectly proportioned, with high ceilings, working fireplaces, and wrought-iron banisters. To add intrigue, its interiors were originally designed by Ogden Codman, Jr. and Edith Wharton, authors of The Decoration of Houses, an interior design tome first published in 1897.
The storied history of the couple’s new home inspired in the designer “an obsession” with making the rooms “up to snuff” in the eyes of its former makers. “My joy in decorating this magical place was palpable,” she says. One of the tenets of Codman, Jr. and Wharton’s design ethos that she tried to live up to was comfort. They believed in investing “in well-made, comfortable upholstered pieces and furniture, rather than expensive, flashy accessories that will quickly go out of fashion.” She finds “more traditional upholstery pieces to be the most comfortable and enveloping,” she tells us. “The goal is to design rooms that you never want to leave.”
One comfortable chair in particular inspired the look of the sophisticated space. “I have always love Quadrille’s “Jardin des Plantes” print, and I knew that I wanted to have something made out of it for the living room,” she says. “Once I made the decision to upholster a chair in it, the options to add other patterns were somewhat limiting.” What pairs well with a large-scale floral? she asked. “Stripes, ikat, and a dash of leopard!”
McGrath also introduced a number of antiques throughout. “Every interior space needs at least one vintage or antique piece in it to anchor it,” she advises. Her greatest find was an 18th-century oak writing table from France with elegant cabriole legs, discovered on an antiquing trip.
To her surprise, the apartment “took on a whole other level of interest from a place I least expected,” she says: her boyfriend. As it turns out, Lospalluto has been a collector of contemporary art by up-and-coming artist for the past decade, and he introduced a number of modern pieces that juxtaposed with McGrath’s traditional aesthetic, including pieces by L.A.-based photographer John Houck and watercolor artist Kim McCarty. “The end result has been an exciting mash-up of classic pieces with very contemporary art, giving our home a warm, youthful, energized feeling.”
Isn’t that what every 1890s home needs? A youthful, energized feeling? You couldn’t ask for more.