Tour a Glamorous Manhattan Penthouse Devised by Dufner Heighes
After working with the family on previous residences for 15 years, the designers understood this desire well. For them, the pied-à-terre also presented an exciting challenge: The 11-story building it crowns was not yet complete when they began. The apartment was only slabs of concrete—a blank slate. The rest was up to their imaginations.
At 3,600 square feet, the floor-through needed to be “approachable, not austere,” Wismer says. In other words, someplace that would be perfect for, as the client put it, “hanging around.” The designers carved out the interiors with an eye toward ease and informality, dedicating the bulk of the home’s south side, which boasts the best city views, to a long, open space comprising the kitchen, breakfast area, and family room. “This is the real gathering spot,” the client says of the sun-drenched stretch, where family members can come together for casual meals around the broad marble-top island before retiring to watch movies from the low-slung sectional sofa nearby. (The master suite, one of two bedrooms, also faces south.) No less scenic, arguably, are the combined living and dining areas, which take in stunning sunsets on the Hudson River. As Wismer emphasizes of the free-flowing layout, “It’s not just family-friendly, it’s user-friendly.”
That said, the place lacks not for polish, with an array of exquisite finishes; strong, sculptural furniture; and gleaming metal accents—most noticeably the bronze casing that edges the doorways and floor-to-ceiling windows, bouncing light (of which there is a lot) across the interiors.
At one end of the entry, setting the apartment’s tone of fine craft, is a glass-and-bronze screen by Paris-based artisan Christophe Côme that frames the dining area. Another such screen delineates the bar in the living area, where ten- foot-tall onyx slabs surround the fireplace. The space’s ceiling, like that of the kitchen, features a deeply incised diamond pattern that makes a confident contemporary reference to the plaster reliefs found in many historic Manhattan residences. (Says Wismer, “We wanted to reinterpret that traditional look in a modern way.”)
That motif, echoed throughout the home, is just one of many subtle nods to sophisticated hallmarks of bygone eras. In the breakfast area, the bricks used for one wall have been coated with platinum-infused resin, bringing to mind the fun-loving ambience of 1960s Palm Springs. Elsewhere in the penthouse, walls of glossy Venetian plaster prevail complemented by oak flooring and, lining the master suite’s corridor, a Damien Hirst butterfly-pattern wallpaper.
Furnishings have been arranged with room to breathe, enhancing the scale, shape, and texture of each piece. Bespoke carpets are plush and eclectic, ranging from the master suite’s textured geometric design to the understated weave in the living area. Bold hanging light fixtures—like the Poul Henningsen lamp over the breakfast table and the Bec Brittain pendants in the dining area—offer striking silhouettes while weightlessly defining their spaces. And seating tends toward the curvaceous, as is the case with the master suite’s Vladimir Kagan sofa and armchair.
The penthouse’s greatest surprise might be what lies above and beyond it. Seemingly rising along the edge of the building, in a glass-enclosed volume just outside the dining area, is a steel-and-mahogany staircase. Beneath it, a Kiki Smith sculpture reclines, as if mid-dream, above a bed of grass that bends in the wind. A walk up the steps reveals a verdant rooftop terrace—life on top of life at the top.
Here, the designers added a kitchen, a lounge complete with its own monumental brick hearth, and—most dramatic—a cantilevered canopy that shelters a dining area. Tiered mahogany planters accom-modate a mix of evergreens and Heritage river birches. The terrace’s ledges, meanwhile, are planted with low grasses and perennials, from butterfly weed to inkberry to fescue. Landscape designer David Seiter, who heads the firm Future Green Studio, oversaw the plantings. “We pulled from the wild industrial look of the High Line,” he explains, referring to the popular park that features prominently in the apartment’s vistas. He also trained four varieties of vines, among them Virginia creeper and wisteria, to a bulkhead that houses building services, creating a vertical garden.
One could hardly ask for a more open, airy space. And with few structures looming in the vicinity, “it’s very private,” the client notes. “You just feel like you’re home.”