Tour a Soothing West Village Townhouse That’s a True “Jewel Box”

“When I walk into a space, I sometimes just fall in love with it,” says New York designer and AD PRO Directory member Alyssa Kapito. Such was the case with this Greek Revival late 1800s West Village town house project, which she began working on for a young family early in the pandemic. “The light is beautiful. The proportions are so classically downtown New York. It’s just such a lovely property that I said yes to the owners immediately. You don’t always get to design these jewels, but this really is a jewel box.”

That’s not to say the house didn’t need much work from Kapito, who studied art history and is known for her collected approach to interiors and her sophisticated mix of antique, vintage, and contemporary pieces. (Her aesthetic is newly on display in her forthcoming, self-titled monograph, which Rizzoli will release on March 19.)

Despite previous owners having commissioned over a decade ago a painstaking and period-perfect preservation, restoration, and renovation from AD100 talent Gil Schafer—a master of historic, vernacular American architecture if ever there was one—some decorating mistakes had been made since. The house, Kapito says, “had lost its point of view and become something of a jumble.”

Still, “there was so much charm waiting to be uncovered,” she says, explaining that the new owners “wanted to maintain all of the details that had been restored.” And the elements that felt dated—floors stained an unappealing brown, paint colors that “were out there”—could easily be fixed. Because the architecture was so beautiful, and had been so well preserved, the clients hoped to take the existing decor “down a notch,” as Kapito puts it, to make their home seem more peaceful.

“They’re such a young, fun family, and they wanted it to feel more like them,” she continues. As for the role she saw for her and her firm, “we were there to soften the whole place, to do a facelift.” To achieve that, the designer worked, in many ways, inward from the perimeter. She began by covering up the bolder colors, replacing them with a spare palette that would help the owners achieve the peaceful setting they desired. She painted the walls and moldings on the main level a very deep cream color—“not white,” she notes—giving the walls a Marmorino plaster finish and doing the moldings in a high-gloss lacquer. The former “creates texture and shadow,” she explains, while the latter “reflects the light very beautifully.”

With this relatively neutral canvas in place, she began collecting for the clients, who were moving to this house from elsewhere in the city but planned to bring none of their furniture with them. “It’s always nice to have the opportunity to start with a blank slate,” says Kapito. “There’s something really special about being able to source everything for clients.”

Her collecting here focused on midcentury-modern pieces, most of them French, plus some Italian and Danish—including works by such icons as Pierre Jeanneret, Gio Ponti, and Arne Jacobsen. “The house has a bit of a European sensibility to it,” Kapito says of these choices. “I felt like going Danish would be too soft for the space. The edginess of the French midcentury makers seemed like enough to give the space this cool vibe that fits with the clients’ personality.”

While Kapito always uses vintage in her projects, the homeowners here gave her a heightened reason to do so: They’re vegan, but, as Kapito puts it. “I didn’t know what it meant in terms of lifestyle.” What she learned is that her clients try to reduce waste and minimize their impact on the planet. In their home, this translated into a major use of vintage, plus working with vendors to use remnants such as fabric to piece together for upholstery. “That’s something we did that was unusual and eye opening for me,” says Kapito.

“The owners have a very wonderful moral obligation in terms of the way they live,” notes the designer, who clearly holds her clients in high esteem. “The house really respects them.”

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