When a cousin of CeCe Barfield Thompson’s clients moved from the West Coast into a new apartment building in New York, she quickly tapped Thompson—a Bunny Williams alum known for interiors with comfortable layering and easy elegance—to help her make it a home. “It was new and was missing a lot of details,” says Thompson of the condo building near Washington Square Park. Luckily, the client had an enviable and richly varied art collection—and Thompson has a penchant for mixing antiques. Working through a few more structural changes than they may have initially planned, the team leaned on these key pieces to turn the white box into a layered, inviting, and personal home.
To begin, Thompson redefined the background canvas: “We originally thought we wouldn’t do that much work, because it was a relatively new build, but ended up doing more because we really wanted to bring some nice architectural details to the apartment,” she explains. She added molding and built-ins, swapped out door hardware, and gave the kitchen a full reno “so that it was in keeping with the rest of the house.”
“That gave it a bit more soul and character,” explains the designer. These two elements were important not only for the apartment’s owner, who wanted a cozy home base, but for friends and family who are frequent quests.
“She loves hosting, she loves entertaining, and she has friends staying with her all the time,” Thompson explains. “So we wanted it to be really comfortable, but also to be beautiful and elegant—approachable without sacrificing style.”
To achieve this balance, Thompson mixed more casual pieces like sisal rugs with formal art, and fine antiques with durable upholstery. “These all come together to feel informal and layered and just sort of worldly, which is really reflective of the client, and also of me,” Thompson says.
Read on to see how it all came together.
Thompson used layered rugs and a thoughtful arrangement of furniture—featuring two sofas and armchairs—to delineate the living room within the larger open concept. For easy seasonal changes, she even designed linen slipcovers for the ottoman and sofas, which can be swapped in and out for summer and winter looks. “Underneath those is a blue Rogers & Goffigon bouclé on the sofas and a denim by John Derian on the ottoman,” the designer reveals. She also added a stone surround to what was once “a little contemporary firebox,” to “make it look like a real fireplace,” an addition that further anchors the room—and makes it look not so new.
“The apartment has a very neutral background, but we peppered in really interesting pieces of furniture and objects to give it soul. So even though it’s a neutral palette, it has so much character because the pieces are really special and interesting and together they make a one of a kind space,” muses Thompson.
Nowhere is that mix more apparent than in the dining area, where an antique tapestry—”one of the first things we bought together,” Thompson says—hangs over a set of antique chairs from the Paris Flea Market, which Thompson reupholstered in a chambray. “I loved the feel of the humble material on the formal chairs,” she says. Since the homeowner would be hosting frequent dinner parties, Thompson commissioned a custom table—modeled after a French directoire, but with additional leaves for large parties.
The chandelier, an English 19th-century piece, is made of mercury glass, and makes for a glowy reflection when the table below it is candlelit. “It’s magical,” says Thompson. “And since she loves to entertain, having those thoughtful details in this space was really important.”
“I thought it was important in an open kitchen that things really related to each other,” says Thompson. She designed cabinetry that echoes the built-ins in the living room across the way, and hung two lantern-style pendants to draw the eye upward. “They also bring a bit of elegance, which is the same reason we hung the photograph in there,” says the designer. “We wanted to the space to be utilitarian, of course, but also really beautiful.”
“What’s great about her apartment is you have these views out into a garden,” from nearly every room, Thompson says. “For the one room that didn’t have views, we lacquered it a chocolate brown to turn it into a super cozy library”—a clever space for the the homeowner’s many books, plus a collection of green vintage glass which Thompson sourced with her. And when she has guests over, Thompson reveals, the custom sectional can function as a bed (she made it extra wide). “I just love the contrast of the airy apartment that’s flooded with light, and then this dark nook where she can go recline and have dinner if she’s alone,” says the designer, who mixed hues from Fine Paints of Europe to get the perfect chocolate.
“She wanted a super serene bedroom which I feel like so many clients want these days,” says Thompson. “To create a simple design is often the hardest, because all the details are really under the microscope.” So, she leaned into those details. “We did the walls, the bed, and the sconce shades in a Claremont fabric,” says Thompson, “And we cut a stripe of the same fabric to use as the trim on the curtains.
Thompson also added a skirted vanity, which she sees as an under-appreciated element: “You can sit there to do makeup, you can also perch there for worries. The skirt hides things, so it’s great for storage,” explains the designer. “It really serves the purpose of a chest but in a much softer way.”
“We wanted this space to be a total treat for guests, something really fun, with a lot of style and character,” says Thompson, who swathed the walls, bed, and curtains in a Lee Jofa fabric. For an extra detail, “we took the trim from this fabric and created a sort of chair rail pattern and also used that to trim the headboard.” Thompson selected the particular textile for the way its red and blues played off of the John Baldessari work hung above the bed. Meanwhile, a dark wood secretary grounds the space—and hides a TV.
For the narrow balcony, Thompson says, “we really maximized space: There’s a small grill on the end, and then a bistro table and pair of chairs where you can sit and have a glass of wine while you grill. It’s a beautiful place to have coffee in the morning because it overlooks these mews. You truly have the sense that you’re perched over a secret garden—which you are.”
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