Too much is not enough.” Those immortal words attributed to both Mick Jagger and 18th-century playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais could have come straight from the lips of the homeowners of this Manhattan townhouse. Here, behind the deceptively simple facade of the year-old 1910s, patterns play upon patterns, the cocktail bar ambiance reigns, and the dining room looks like a Matisse canvas come to life.Interior designers regularly praise their clients for being “brave” and “risky,” but in this case, says Danielle Colding, it flipped. The typical upside-down designer-client relationship: “They actually pushed me to go bolder than I would have done on my own,” she says admiringly.
It was spring 2019 when the ELLE DECOR A-List designer was commissioned by the couple — a lawyer and writer with two dogs, no children, and a knack for entertaining — to transform the five-story building into a building full of personality. home base. Structurally, the newly renovated building was in good condition, with sunny front rooms, three outdoor areas, and elaborate moldings on the lobby floor. But the finishes were heavy, dominated by what Kolding described as “anachronistic espresso-mocha colours,” and the home overall suffered from a lack of flair. Kolding, who is known for her eclectic global approach to design, agreed there was plenty of room for improvement. “For me, the ultimate insult is to say something looks like a showroom,” she says. “I always prefer wonky and weird and even a little ugly to boring.”
Kolding learned how bold her clients were willing to go early in the process, when she was working in the lobby. She had already installed black and white graphic tiles on the ground, irregularly assembling them in a way that conveyed chaotic energy. She also chose a black and white Pierre Frey print canvas for the Roman shade. With so much going for the small space (including artwork), I planned to keep the walls neutral. But then came the customers’ cry: “No to white walls!”
“So I added this funky wallpaper,” she says, referring to Kelly Wearstler’s black-and-white square wallpaper. Results? An artistic, layered entry announces: “Get ready. This house is going to be fun.”
And as visitors soon realize, the surprises are just beginning. One flight up from the entry level (which also includes a bright sunflower yellow kitchen), the narrow landing has been transformed into a full-size bar. “In most townhouses, this area is considered wasted space, a seating area where no one ever sits,” says Colding. Outfitted with custom cabinetry, an antique Italian mirror and navy blue palm print wallpaper, the moodily lit bar evokes a cozy private club or a glamorous hotel.
Immediately behind is the living room, or “parlor,” as Kolding refers to it. “I envisioned a Truman Capote-type party with lots of martinis,” she says of the space, which features black drapery walls and a dramatic streak of graffiti-printed toilet-curtains falling from 12-foot ceilings. A pair of Art Deco chairs and a curvaceous custom sofa in electric blue face a screen set above a marble fireplace. Contemporary artwork, including an abstract painting by Meriel Jefferson, breaks up the dark gloom of the walls. “In college, I had a black bedroom wall, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever designed a living room with black walls,” says Kolding. “It’s magical at night.”
However, it is the dining room across from the foyer that is arguably the real crossbar of the house. Although the salon is radiantly lit and exquisitely dark, the room simultaneously evokes a sculpture garden, Matisse collage, and postmodern Alice in Wonderland theater. What looks like a hand-painted mural on chalk walls is actually Fromental wallpaper, whose palette of deep Swedish blue and indigo is reflected in the elegant fabrics, which are so formal they’re almost ironic. A group of 12 iron and leather dining chairs are mysteriously arranged around a massive marble table by Mario Milana. Meanwhile, she notes, an earthy ceramic Michel Lanos statue and a pair of brutalist-style concrete floor lamps “bring a kind of calm to the space.” “I didn’t want to feel euphoric. luster Not a word I like.”
After all, despite customers asking for more, Kolding never lets itself get carried away. “For me, this house is a lot of space, but it’s still very tasteful,” she says. “It shouldn’t look like a clown show. My goal was to make it funky and interesting, but also not look crazy.
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of ELLE DECOR. Participate
(tags for translation) Daniel Colding