Tour a Chic and Surprisingly Sporty Upper East Side Apartment

When this young New York family snapped up their dream Central Park–gazing apartment on the Upper East Side, they loved the gracious living spaces, natural light, and flexible floor plan. As for the dated renovation that hadn’t been touched since the nineties? They’d need to do something about that. So they called in AD100 designers Ariel Ashe and Reinaldo Leandro to revamp the interiors. The brief was pretty straightforward: a gut renovation to reveal a cleaner, more modern look fit for their active lifestyle.

Ashe and Leandro were happy to oblige. But they didn’t want to turn the place into a slick white box—something too contemporary. Rather, they aimed to inject the prewar apartment with a bit of historic charm, imbuing it with a sense of place while lightening and brightening the space. As Leandro explains, “We wanted to make traditional details feel a little bit more contemporary.”

Stripping things back and starting from scratch, they installed picture frame molding, baseboards, and white oak flooring that spoke to the apartment’s prewar history. (It was built around 1926.) Meanwhile, by opening up the floor plan, they created an airier atmosphere that revealed expansive views towards the Central Park reservoir.

Throughout the Upper East Side home, function was at the root of many aesthetic decisions. Sofas needed to be comfortable; the kitchen needed space for cookbooks, wine storage, and an extra large refrigerator. “We’re an active family spending as much time as we can in the mountains climbing, biking, and skiing,” explains the client, who requested an exercise room where they could stow all that gear along with their at-home equipment. With two young boys, someone is always coming back from one activity or another. To accommodate, Ashe and Leandro designed perforated white oak closets that, besides being superchic, are great for ventilating sweaty gym clothes. “They just wanted everything to feel lean and practical for their way of life,” Ashe explains.

Unlike some families, screens were not a major priority in this house. “It was very refreshing that they only wanted one room with a TV,” admits Leandro, who worked to create a super-comfy media room enveloped in white oak millwork; its ceiling painted in Benjamin Moore’s Country Redwood. A glitzy Marilyn Minter photograph gives it just a touch of glam. “We wanted it to be really cozy and at the same time cohesive,” Leandro explains. “So we used the same wood from the entry and the bathroom to carve out these warmer spaces within the floor plan.”

When it came to furnishings, the designers selected pieces that felt collected over time but still functional, leaning into a slightly ’70s vibe but with a well-traveled eclecticism. In the main living area they devised two distinct seating areas—in one, a Yrjo Kukkapuro black leather lounge chair sits with skirted ottomans and a Jean Michel Frank sofa around a Gae Aulenti travertine cocktail table. Nearby, a custom sofa snakes around a seeded glass cocktail table by Courtney Applebaum. Art is hung sparingly in this room, but a dreamy painting by Marria Pratts sets the tone.

Art makes a bigger statement in the long entryway hallway—a feature the clients loved at first sight—which Ashe and Leandro transformed into a pseudo-gallery. Though many clients bring their own art collection to a project, lucky Ashe and Leandro were asked to curate a selection for this dream clients. “They like color,” Leandro recalls. “That was basically the only directive.” Walls slicked in Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace boast paintings by contemporary artists Antonio González and Amy Bessone, and collectible ceramics by Roger Herman and Vince Palacios take the floor. Speaking of the floor—the designers amped it up considerably with a white oak-and-marble parquet checkerboard pattern that delivers a graphic punch.

But if the idea of having a gallery in one’s house sounds just a tad too formal for this family, think again. They’re wearing it in just right. As the client explains, “Whether we’re hosting cocktail parties or a game of competitive soccer between the boys, it is one of our favorite spaces in the apartment.” As for those eye-popping floors? “It is the first thing any guest notices upon entering.”

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