A Colorful Upper East Side Apartment for an Avid Art Collector

Featuring Handwerk Art and Design

As you walk along 5th ave in New York City admiring the historic architecture, sometimes it’s easy to forget there is an entire universe that lies beyond those storied walls. Beautiful, richly designed homes and glamorous apartments fill the townhouses throughout the Upper East Side. You may catch a glimmer of a chandelier or an ornately decorated ceiling and wonder what other treasures lie beyond.

One such apartment, directly across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ties together stories of travel, mid century materials and contemporary art. The owner of the apartment, an LA-based father of three, bought the unit during COVID with the plan to move his pied-a-terre from a rental a few blocks away. He brought on NY-based Handwerk Art and Design to handle the project.

“We’ve worked with this client for years and he has a really interesting background. He spent time living in Mauritania, so we incorporated antique west African pottery. He owns property in Venice, Italy and is funding the restoration of a historic church there. He also has an impressive understanding of ancient and contemporary art, and his art collection is always growing and evolving. These were all important factors in our design” Says Fiona Sanipelli, co-founder of Handwerk and DesignSpec.

Handwerk wanted the space to emulate the client’s personality and love of art and distant cultures. “Our first step was to come up with a concept that tied together all of his interests. We drew inspiration from the homes of well-known artists like Julian Schnabel who use their personal spaces as galleries.” Says Gregor Bugel, Handwerk’s other founding partner. “And of course we looked to the Met – one of the premier art collections in the world which is right across the street.” The highlight of the apartment is the 20’ long wall showcasing Warhol’s Electric Chair series; a vibrantly colorful yet eerie piece from his repertoire that the owner recently acquired.

A few of the art pieces were created by Handwerk for the space. An undulating landscape of paper strips follows the contours of Mauritania’s border. A dissected NYC subway map charts the routes taken by the designers while working on the project. Remnants of quartzite from the client’s previous home were fashioned into an eclipse side table. Throughout the design process, the Handwerk team relied upon the DesignSpec software to capture every detail and ensure their creations were fabricated with precision and ease.

Aside from art, travel is an integral part of the owner’s life. Italy and Japan are his two favorite cultures to explore, so the team took cues from Japanese paper lighting and zen-like environments. The living room features a ceiling lined with cylindrical paper lanterns that envelops the wall of Warhol’s in an inviting glow. The guest bedroom is a study in restraint and the celebration of natural materials, evoking the serenity of a traditional tea room. A gorgeous hand-blown Barovier and Toso chandelier hangs in the entry. The hand blown glass is infused with gold leaf and sparkles when you enter the apartment at night.

The concept of color immersion played into the color story for the space as well. Many of the rooms are designed around a specific palette of playful, surprising color combinations. The bathroom for the boys features blue tile, a green vanity, a maroon door and pink terrazzo that come together in delightful harmony. “We made sure to incorporate terrazzo in a few places, since the owner has a strong tie to Italy.” Handwerk sourced stone for the kitchen floor that was inspired by Carlo Scarpa’s mid century terrazzo design. The Venetian architect was also a source of inspiration for some custom hardware the team designed.

Overall, the project tells a story of the client’s love of life, culture and all things beautiful. The space will continue to grow around the treasures he collects from around the world, as the city outside speeds along to become something familiar yet new.

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