Thursday, June 25, 2015

Street Views: A Super Stoop

I'm always cheered every year to see Michael Quinn's planted creations tiered on the steps of his Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn stoop. The selection of plants is appealing, but the vessels that hold them deserve extra attention, exceptional for their variety and scale.  Note some surprises: a jungle faced container hidden behind the gigantic leaves of an aloe plant and a Tonka Toys dump truck that's hauling a load of sprouting dirt.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Home Tour: A Quirky Yet Elegant Chelsea Loft

Chip Walker is one of my oldest friends. I won't say how long that has been, but let's just say he knew me when I had lots of hair on my head. Last summer I did a quick tour of his fabulous Chelsea loft and am now sharing the experience with you. 

By New York standards, the apartment Chip has lived in for four years is huge, measuring about 1,800 square feet. Plus, it has a luxury very few older buildings allow: a laundry!

After moving back to New York City from a short stint in Chicago, this Birmingham, Ala., native who is a prominent brand consultant and ad executive, found himself living in a boring, box-of-a rental on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The experience set in motion an apartment search for the exact opposite: a home with expansive walls to show his growing art collection, an open living space that makes for easy entertaining and adequate room so that visitors have privacy and are out of the way.

Chip found all that and more in this airy loft co-op. With a bit of help from an interior decorator friend, he transformed the space into a crisp and bright, 1960s-inspired dream pad filled with quirky art by his high school friend Christopher Lawson that easily mingles with eBay and thrift finds and Chinese antiques acquired on his world travels.

Chip describes his style as, "clean, sleek retro meets kooky modern 1960s," he says. "The 1960s are my favorite furniture decade."

As he thought about re-decorating, he found inspiration in the 1960s sofa he found on eBay. He says it was also his greatest indulgence, since it cost $7,000 to re-cover a $1,000 treasure. (I say it was totally worth it!)

His living room is up against the major source of light for the entire apartment, which was a challenge. "Since it’s basically a long box, the only light that comes in is at the front in the living area and in the back, the bedroom. That’s one reason painting the brick wall white (at the right) was a good idea; it brightened the space," he says. "But as far as sectioning the apartment off into other rooms in the future if I wanted to, even though it’s quite large, my options are very limited."

To accent his eBay finds and paintings by Christopher Lawton, Chip turned to inexpensive resources like West Elm.

His mid-century Eero Saarinen-inspired dining table and chairs also came from eBay, which he highly recommends as a source when decorating. "You can find great things not just in auctions, but also in storefronts that sell modern and mid-century furniture," he says. "I found so many resources with excellent reproductions at a fraction of the price.

"I’m not really a DIY kind of person, and that’s why I had a little help from my decorator friend and hired different people to do things," Chip says. "But I am proud of the fact that by myself, I hung the West Elm chandelier (pictured here) over my dining room table."

Originally, what is now a guest room/study was a clunky square with a large walk-in closet that Chip did not need. He removed the closet and installed discrete, translucent sliding doors at an angle to provide privacy for guests and retain additional light for the entire space.

The table is yet another eBay find, and the Oriental rug was found on the street, as Chip stresses, "pre-bed bug craze." The art above the sofa was from a friend who acquired it during an office renovation.

Here, the translucent sliding doors from The Sliding Door Company are closed, giving privacy to the extra room and revealing another painting by Christopher Lawton. The Arne Jacobsen-inspired chair is yet another eBay acquisition.

The modern kitchen is as it was when Chip purchased the apartment. While he has plans to update it, he says he enjoys its functionality, its generous storage and its easy-to-clean cook top and marble countertops. 

While the red pipe next to the bookshelves in the entertainment area appears to be a decorative element, it’s not. The color was dictated to comply with fire code. The bookshelves came from CB2.

The Marshall Field sectional, which Chip had in his Chicago high-rise apartment, fits cozily in the area adjacent to the kitchen, making it a favorite lounging spot for guests.

This retro shag rug came from Housing Works

The French doors led to an expansive bedroom that Chip calls his greatest embarrassment, even though to me, it's hard to see why, since it is light and airy, with tons of built-ins and a walk-in closet. "I just haven’t gotten around to doing anything (in the bedroom), he says. "It took me two years to decorate in the first place. In fact for almost a year, I had almost no furniture when a neighbor visited me and asked, 'When are you going to move in?'"

The chair, pictured here, was found on a street in Chelsea.

Another of Christopher Lawton's pieces hangs above Chip's bed.

In his bedroom, you can't help but notice Chip's personal touch: the Elvis-on-velvet painting juxtaposed against another Christopher Lawson piece. “I had always wanted an Elvis painting and years ago while driving around in Connecticut, I saw a woman selling them by the road, hit the breaks, and bought one from her on the spot,” Chip says. “I used to keep him in all of my offices, but I like him now in my bedroom. Shouldn’t every apartment have at least one Elvis-on-velvet painting?”

Why, of course!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter


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