Stepping inside this Gramercy Park apartment is a spiritual experience. "When you walk in, you know you’ve entered some place like no other," muses interior designer and homeowner Lucinda Loya. And not just because of its modern-day design splendor. Indeed, the building was developed in the Gilded Age by Manhattan socialite and developer Rutherford Stuyvesant, so, naturally, it's one of the most historied residences in the city.
In the 1940s, it was converted into a convent, where the current unit was the one-time chapel, and next, in the 1960s, it was legendary guitarist Eric Clapton's apartment until he donated it to Hazleton Hospital, and it became methadone rehab facility. For a brief time, it was also a covetable filming location (episodes of CSI were shot in it!). And, today—three centuries and five lives later—it's the Houston-based interior designer's city escape. Split into thirteen units, Loya's is clearly the main event in the landmark building, which is aptly dubbed the Clapton Chapel since he restored the ceilings. Keep reading to learn more about her design process, and check out the video above to see the gorgeous home for yourself.
Honoring the Past But Adding a Contemporary Spin
This rich past is palpable; just look up at the vaulted ceiling in the great room, which represents and honors the space's layers of history. It spotlights the original family crest, a plaque that reads "Clapton Hall," and chapel bones. "It truly has its own spirit," says Loya. While she was drawn to the existing grandiose appeal of the great room, she also gave it a contemporary wow-factor. Think big Texas style with cosmopolitan flair. Just one example? She commissioned artist Rob Wynn painted the gold leaf tear drops to add an equally emotive touch, but with a modern sensibility that brought the history to life. The painted tears drip from the seams, at 26 feet high.
And aside from the gorgeous contemporary accents, the developers also maintained the Victorian integrity of the home's veneer while completely modernizing the interior. There was still some work to be done when she bought it, though. The home is just under 4,000 square feet, with three bedrooms, a multipurpose room, and laundry room, so there was quite a bit of ground to cover, design-wise.
Choosing a Color Scheme That Won't Steal the Spotlight
At the outset, Loya was striving for continuity. The great room really helped inform designs throughout the apartment. For instance, she used black and white floor tiles in the bathrooms and wallpaper in the guest room, bedrooms, and master closet to play up the old-school opulence of the gold leaf medallions and family crest.
Her process always looks a little like this. "My style [motto] is 'every project is a special one of itself,'" she tells us. "They’re all different, there’s not one that looks like the other." So she takes the lead from the client’s lifestyle and the architecture.
"This one, being a church, it was quite challenging," Loya explains. The hardest part was deciding the color scheme. "I couldn’t come up with a color palette that suited the space. So it occurred to me late one night when I sat in the room with no furniture. I just studied the architecture more to get a good idea of how this space to speaking to me and I realized that no color at all. All white with touches of gold brocade. Didn’t want to compete with the ceiling." In fact, almost all of the furniture is white and custom made.
Finding the Right Layout For a Wide Open Floor Plan
Another design challenge was working with the grand scale and openness of the great room. "The only true dining spot was smack dab in the middle," Loya tells us. Her solution was to turn it into zones. There's a home office, kitchen, dining room, and a patio off to the left behind the TV all in one room. The dining table is strategically placed between the living area and kitchen, effectively functioning as a makeshift partition.
The Lesson: Split the room with smart furniture to double its use without interrupting visual flow.
Using Artwork to Add Color, Intrigue, and Personality
There was also a huge emphasis on art throughout the home. Her rule of thumb? Buy what you love—but also make sure you have the walls for it. So, accordingly, Loya bought pieces to suit the space. For example, she describes the piece in the living room as "outrageously perfect," because it's large, makes a statement, adds texture, and enhances the space's personality without stealing all the attention. Then, the whimsical piece over the desk adds a pop of color and an irreverent sense of humor that contrasts perfectly with the seriousness of the ceiling.
Drawing Inspiration From Her Passions, Like Fashion
The artwork, as well as the decor, speaks to Loya's love of fashion. "I believe interiors and fashion collide daily on a regular basis. I’m not a trend-follower."
Some of her favorite brands that reflect this sentiment are Fendi Casa and Armani Casa. But she also goes straight to fashion designers who don't necessarily have their own interior lines. For example, Loya took a brocade fabric from Jean Paul Gautier and turned it into curtains. Since this is her personal home, she was able to really have fun and let fashion influence her decorating choices. From the Marcel Wanders bellbottom chair from his dress collection and the bed designed to look like a white Coco Chanel quilted bag to the bar stools inspired by the Hermés chain belt and a chandelier that resembles a corset, she really wanted her home to be a reflection of her sense of fashion. Missoni accomplished (sorry, I had to).
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