Tour an Exceptional Manhattan Apartment with a Collection as Stunning as the Skyline Views
Design firm DHD Architecture + Interior Design invigorates a client’s modern apartment with resplendent Art Deco–inspired accents and exuberant contemporary art
There are advantages to residing almost six hundred feet up, inside one of Manhattan’s new “supertalls,” the nickname for the vertiginous skyscrapers, some of which now dwarf the once-mighty Empire State Building. The light is dazzling, the views are endless, and magic happens every evening when the sun sets and the city twinkles brightly below. But living in the clouds has at least one potential drawback (besides, of course, vertigo): It can be hard to create warm, inviting spaces on a human scale when it feels like you’re at the top of the world.
Steffani Aarons, a New York interior designer with the firm DHD Architecture + Interior Design, is an old hand at sky-high decorating, having handled several apartments in a midtown supertall where she was recently commissioned to tackle yet another. The client, a born and bred New Yorker who develops hotels—he started in the family business as a bellboy in Times Square when he was 16—bought the 4,200-square-foot, three-bedroom residence in 2021.
His initial idea was to conjure a white-walled, downtown-like loft in which his vibrant contemporary art collection would stand out. But that notion faded when he fell under the spell of the most classic of New York architectural eras, Art Deco. At the time, he was developing a hotel infused with that spirit. Plus, all he had to do was look out his windows to see icons of that period, including the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center, for inspiration.
“We wanted to evoke the formality and luxury of Art Deco without being literal,” says Aarons, who collaborated on the project with her husband, architect David Howell. (They met while working at Clodagh Design, before he launched DHD in 1995.) For starters, they invested the ultramodern space with evocative flourishes such as classically inspired arched doorways in blackened steel between the rooms, plus an arched window that frames a dramatic view of Central Park in the foyer.
Adding to the entry’s allure, they commissioned decorative painter Jonathan Kutzin to finish the walls in seductively shimmering layers of burnished gold paint and varnish. And in the monumental 30-by-40-foot living and dining room, they created a scalloped high-gloss Venetian plaster ceiling that envelops the space like a soft cloud.
Aarons then went to work adding glamorous furnishings, from vintage Deco objets to imaginative contemporary takes on early 20th-century design. A light fixture of concentric brass rings by Dimoremilano swirls above the dining area’s Cristian Branea table, featuring a Sahara black marble top with a fluted walnut pedestal.
In the adjacent living area, softly curved Marta Sala Éditions sofas are grouped with an elongated bench by Pieter Maes from Les Ateliers Courbet upholstered in a tiger-pattern velvet and a pair of nautilus-shaped bronze cocktail tables by Erwan Boulloud. At the room’s opposite side, Aarons composed a separate sitting area with vintage Jindřich Halabala lounge chairs around a gleaming pyrite DeMuro Das table, while a cluster of colorful velvet-clad, mushroom-shaped Maison Gerard stools perch nearby.
“The client wanted a little swank,” says the designer. “It’s a sophisticated apartment, but it’s also playful.”
The refinement continues down the hall in the handsome study, which is outfitted with bespoke cerused-oak bookshelves, a leather-wrapped desk, and a mix of new and vintage pieces that include a Gilbert Rohde biomorphic glass-top cocktail table from the 1940s. A Carlisle & Co. woven tweed wall covering—described by the owner as being “like a cozy sweater”—serves as a backdrop for eye-catching paintings by Francesca DiMattio and Ross Bleckner.
“The client wanted a little swank. It’s a sophisticated apartment, but it’s also playful”Steffani Aarons
Those are just two of the works the owner has collected over the past couple of decades with the keen-eyed assistance of art adviser Laura Solomon. The new apartment provided an opportunity to expand his collection in ever bigger and bolder ways. The challenge for the living-dining area, Solomon recalls, “was finding a good composition. You’re seeing a lot of art at one time, and all the pieces have to speak to each other.”
Harmony indeed prevails. One side of the room is anchored by a dynamic painting of geometric shapes by Eamon Ore-Giron and a Richard Serra etching with a series of sensual circles. The other side of the space holds a neon-hued landscape by Whitney Bedford from her “Veduta” series, in which she appropriates historical pastorals in weird and wonderful ways.
The painting, like many others in the collection, heralds the home of someone who has gentlemanly tastes but doesn’t take himself too seriously. “I’m going through a pink phase,” the owner explains. “I love pink.” It’s a color that also features prominently in a dreamy, Asian-inspired landscape by Jay Heikes that hangs in the foyer.
Several of the paintings are so large—the Ore-Giron, for instance, measures 9 by 11 feet—that they couldn’t fit into the building’s elevator. Solomon had to have canvases folded and rolled and then re-stretched and framed on site. “There was no craning them up that many floors to get them in,” Solomon says with a laugh. “I told him he can never move again.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Winter Issue under the headline “High Impact.” Subscribe to the magazine.