In The Magazine

Rooms With A View

by Kirk Henckels Photographed by Michel Arnaud
Friday, October 6, 2017

New York City’s rich and varied array of luxury apartment buildings have never ceased to intrigue. What began with the Dakota as a novelty has become the building type that New Yorkers can truly call their own.

Life at the Top by Kirk Henckels and Anne Walker, with photographs by Michel Arnaud, is an account of New York’s most splendid apartment buildings. It traces the development of apartment living for the top echelons of New York society through two transitions, from fussily ornate Belle Époque mansions into elegantly designed apartment buildings and then into sleekly contemporary towers. Both were fueled by remarkably similar factors: a wave of staggering wealth accumulation,

the development of new technologies and materials, a desire for a more convenient and less cluttered “modern” lifestyle, a need to build vertically, and an increasing focus on major architects and exceptional interior designers.

The book includes one apartment from fifteen of these singular buildings. For our exclusive excerpt, we’ve created a fantasy of the ultimate New York power apartment.

adapted from the introduction to Life at the Top

720 PARK AVENUE Hand-blocked Colefax and Fowler wallpaper lining the walls of the front hall is the backdrop for a George II marble-topped parcel-gilt console and a pair of Moroccan baluster jar lamps.

Diode Lamp (Small Green), 2006, by Marc Newson casts the media room in a green light. The custom bookcase is hung with small works of art by Judy Chicago, E. V. Day and Adolph Gottlieb.

834 FIFTH AVENUE Henri Samuel designed the color scheme and decor of the winter garden around a set of 18th-century Chinese panels, originally from a château in Belgium, that the Gutfreunds had already purchased. Samuel incorporated the panels into the architecture of the room, which was hand-painted by the Atelier Mériguet-Carrère. A Diego Giacometti coffee table stands atop a Russian Bessarabian rug from a château in Belgium. The chairs, originally from a palace in Denmark, were reupholstered by Gael de Brousse.

960 FIFTH AVENUE The living room also features Guercino’s St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness, ca. 1652–55, above the sideboard. Beautifully framed paintings by Richard Wilson, Moses van Uyttenbroeck, Giovanni Lanfranco, Gerard Seghers Wals, Samuel Palmer, and Bonington line the walls.

THE DAKOTA The kitchen features the apartment’s original cabinets and a Kimbel and Cabus table. The patterned encaustic tile floor and the various wallpapers create visual interest.

RIVER HOUSE The cloakroom walls are covered in a crackled black-enameled canvas. A Maison Jansen Empire-style chair pulls up to a 1920s dressing table by Robert Pansart.

RIVER HOUSE The walls in the oval salon are covered in gauffered leather panels. A silk brocade curtain was woven to complement the walls; when opened, it reveals a television. The chandelier is from Nancy Reagan’s White House. A custom bronze fire screen is fitted with fluted rose-colored glass. Concealed doors lead to a powder room with blood orange waxed-plaster walls and a full bar/wine room with walls lacquered in a vivid moss green.

THE BERESFORD Octagonal, copper-roofed towers anchor three corners of the building and create the Beresford’s iconic presence in the skyline.

820 FIFTH AVENUE The pristine white palette extends to the master bedroom, where a Flexform Fauteuil cozies up to the fireplace.

THE BERESFORD A Venini chandelier hangs from the center of the vaulted ceiling in the tower room, which is primarily furnished with white-and brown-upholstered pieces. A vintage Tobia Scarpa cocktail table sits between a pair of George Smith sofas. The arched window echoes the shape of the ceiling.

15 CENTRAL PARK WEST An intimate breakfast area off the kitchen has a panoramic view of the West Side of Manhattan and the Hudson River through a floor-to-ceiling window.

432 Park avenue A freestanding tub in the master bathroom perches dramatically over the Hudson River.

778 PARK AVENUE In the dining room, the antique Maison Jansen dining table and console—heirlooms of the owner—are paired with side chairs by Jean-Michel Frank. A French Arts and Crafts brass screen was reconfigured to fit over mirrored cabinet doors. An antique Venini chandelier was also reconfigured for the space.

998 FIFTH AVENUE The gallery features marble Ionic columns and a ceiling of translucent glass overlaid with wrought-iron detailing.

173 and 176 perry street Two John Widdicomb chairs flank a carved Indian side table from Odegard in front of the view of the Hudson River Park.


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