New York Spaces: Fresh Start

Using natural texture, unexpected color, and fine art, John Willey energizes a young bachelor’s newly constructed apartment in Chelsea

“For my client, buying an apartment in Chelsea was all about ‘location’,” says designer John Willey. The two bedroom, two-and-a-half bath apartment was a clean, white shell that assured its owner – a thirty-something Wall Street exec – a quick commute to the Financial District and ready to the Midtown and West Village art, culture, and social scene. “It was, in a phrase, your typical bachelor pad. We needed it to be fun, comfortable, and easy to live in – but not boring.”

Willey Design added personality to the brand-new white box with natural textures and rich colors inspired by the owner’s Persian heritage: bright crisp blues, fiery oranges, chocolaty browns, and a dash of crisp apple green. “The owner had a respect for the traditions of his culture, but we tried to integrate them in a more modern and abstract way, rather than bringing in the expected rug or artwork.”

In the living room, Willey warmed a potentially chilly space with a Tibetan wool area rug the color of mahogany-red marigolds. Two walls of windows provide urban views; a third features a large custom wallpaper mural created from a photograph that the designer took while viewing Roxy Paine’s Maelstrom sculpture when it was installed on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The sky that day was a crazy, perfect blue that can only come from nature,” says Willey.

Textural wall coverings fabricated from woven paper and hemp make an appearance in the dining room, hallway, and bedroom, as well, infusing the apartment with quiet color and subtle pattern. A mix of dark and light woods (walnut in the dining room, cerused oak in the bedroom), metallic finishes, and leather upholstery demonstrates the warmth that natural materials bring to the environment. “In the city, it’s easy to disconnect from nature. We wanted to integrate a sense of the outdoors on this space,” the designer explains. “When you want color that is high-energy – but not psychedelic – the natural world is the best place to turn for inspiration.” Every day is a fresh start.


Hilary Adorno