Outfitting an Art-Filled Penthouse in New York City

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By Brad Goldfarb

Along with the High Line, Frank Gehry's IAC headquarters, and the Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum slated to open next spring, a parade of striking residential buildings by an all-star cast of architects, including Jean Nouvel, Richard Meier, and Shigeru Ban, has completely transformed the complexion of New York City's West Side in the past decade or so. One of these structures -- the tower known as 200 Eleventh Ave., devised by Annabelle Selldorf in the heart of Chelsea's gallery district–offers a state-of-the-art amenity no other high-rise in the city can match: apartment-level parking, made possible by an elevator that deposits occupants and their cars directly at their own doors. Add enticing features like double-height ceilings and panoramic views, and it's easy to understand why the address has become so desirable.

For one couple, who live primarily in Paris and Aspen, Colorado, with their two children, a spur-of-the-moment visit to a duplex penthouse in the building was all it took to end a nascent search for the%VIRTUAL-pullquote-"In the living room the decorator created "the impression that the room was floating like a helium balloon," he says, "with the Hudson River below and clouds above."% perfect pied-à-terre. "Our decision to take it was pretty instant," says the wife.

Just a few years earlier the pair had sold what many would consider the ultimate Manhattan trophy home -- a sprawling apartment on Fifth Avenue. "We wanted to be downtown, in a smaller and more contemporary space," explains the husband. And the move to Chelsea, with many of the city's leading galleries just steps away, would put the duo in the center of the art scene, a world in which both are active. They envisioned the residence not only as a place to call home in New York but also as a glamorous setting for entertaining. To tailor the developer-outfitted unit into the inviting showplace they pictured, the couple turned to Paris-based interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot, whom they'd worked with before. "My husband wanted something less traditional than our other homes," says the wife. "I am all about warmth, ease and comfort, especially for our children. Jean-Louis understands that balance."

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Art-Filled Manhattan Penthouse Designed by Jean-Louis Deniot
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Outfitting an Art-Filled Penthouse in New York City

A monumental Anselm Kiefer painting presides over the opposite end of the living room, where a Vladimir Kagan sofa (clad in an Armani/Casa fabric) from Ralph Pucci International is paired with a cocktail table from Jean-Louis Deniot's collection for Jean de Merry. The bar cabinet at left, a custom-made Hervé van der Straeten piece, is also from Ralph Pucci International, and the Steinway piano was given a blue-lacquer finish. Jean-François Lesageembroidered the Pierre Frey linen curtains.

Photography by Simon Upton, produced by Carlos Mota

A terrace was enclosed to create the family room, where Deniot devised the brass-and-copper light fixture and the bone-top cocktail table that can be raised to dining height electronically; the curtain fabric is by Christopher Farr, and the carpet is by Tai Ping

Photography by Simon Upton, produced by Carlos Mota

The symphony of reflective surfaces in the kitchen includes the polished stainless-steel panels on the Jean-Louis Deniot-designed island, a Guy de Rougemont free-form chrome-top table, and metallic wallpaper by Phillip Jeffries; the circular artwork is by Astrid Krogh, and the vintage swivel chairs are by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand.

Photography by Simon Upton, produced by Carlos Mota

The master suite features a window wall that overlooks the family room; the 1960s wing chairs are upholstered in a Jim Thompson silk.

Photography by Simon Upton, produced by Carlos Mota

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Deniot also grasped that to make the apartment function as his clients wished, a few structural modifications would be necessary. Carried out in collaboration with Peter Pelsinski of the New York firm SPAN Architecture, these changes ranged from the cosmetic -- adding ceiling coves to conceal lighting, ductwork and wiring -- to the more ambitious, such as enclosing one of the two outdoor terraces to form a double-height family room (which can also serve as a dining room, thanks to a Deniot -- designed cocktail table that rises to dining level at the touch of a button).

When it came to the decor, Deniot selected a variety of statement pieces, among them a backlit brass sunburst sculpture by C. Jeré in the powder room and an Hervé van der Straeten bronze-and-lacquer bar cabinet in the living room. The emphasis on high-impact furnishings was an approach the homeowners readily embraced, and their contributions to the mix included a curvy chrome-and-ebony dining table with matching consoles by Guy de Rougemont. These, in turn, inspired the sleek kitchen island, which Deniot fronted with a Mondrianesque arrangement of stainless-steel and wood panels.

Not surprisingly, views were central to Deniot's design, with the sky, river, and cityscape informing many of his choices. In the living room the decorator created "the impression that the room was floating like a helium balloon," he says, "with the Hudson River below and clouds above." Floor-to-ceiling curtains custom embroidered with patterns suggestive of watery reflections line the 24-foot-tall windows, while a silk carpet in pale blues and grays underscores the ethereal mood. Anchoring the room is a vintage Steinway piano, lacquered blue by Deniot. "Jean-Louis struggled with having a brown or a black piano," says the wife. "So we compromised."

In the master bedroom, where a bronze Paul Evans lamp from the 1970s resides harmoniously atop a bespoke lacquer bookcase, Deniot's penchant for combining old and new is on vivid display. "I try to mix things so you can't tell what's vintage and what's recent," he says. Throughout the home, walls are clad in compelling textiles, such as the evocative print of rolling hills in the guest room, chosen for the way it echoes the distant landscape across the Hudson.

Of course, art plays a major role as well. Among the pieces acquired for the space is the Antony Gormley sculpture on the second-floor landing. Another high-light is the arresting multicolor wall sculpture by Mauro Perucchetti commissioned for the spot above the living room fireplace. Still, "it's not an ideal apartment for art," concedes the husband. "With all the windows there's limited space for hanging anything. It's the classic trade-off." But then, those New York City views are their own kind of masterpiece.

Tour the Jean-Louis Deniot-devised Chelsea apartment.

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