This Designer Loves His Apartment So Much That He’s Transplanting It to an Identical Space 4 Floors Up

A reproduction original. Photo: Annie Schlechter

Joe Serrins likes almost everything about his apartment. When he moved into this Art Deco building four years ago, he made minimal changes to the floor plan, moving a wall in the kitchen to make his bedroom smaller and revamping the bathroom. “It’s charming, this era of apartment buildings. The scale of the rooms is really pretty, the proportions are great. They have a real sweetness about the details and things, so we kept most of it,” he says. The only thing that left him a little disappointed was the view (meh) and the light (ditto). This year, when the identical apartment four floors up came on the market, he grabbed it; he plans to move everything upstairs and reproduce the whole place verbatim, with barely a tweak.

It’s an eclectic arrangement, whatever floor it’s on. “None of the furniture really matches, or goes together, but the pieces talk to each other in a nice way,” he says. “I like that it doesn’t feel overdesigned. It’s all things that I like, so it feels consistent.” Sentimental pieces inherited from his grandmother live alongside art collected from friends and vintage shops and items bought for clients that didn’t quite work for them (plus one Wendell Castle–inspired lamp that he decided he just couldn’t give up). “It’s a lot of years of accumulation, so it’s been edited in that way.”

A modern paint scheme helped pull all that eccentricity together, with a yellow-gray-cream-white system of color blocks that divides the living room into four unique zones. “I wanted it to be four because I liked the idea that the paint had a different logic than the architecture,” Serrins says. “The paint was really following the logic of the sunlight. This corner is the darkest, so it’s bright yellow. The paint runs over the molding and ignores the logic of the moldings, breaking that traditional way of painting.”

The quad-color treatment won’t be transitioning to the new place, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be something equally bold. “We’re going to do a pattern on the ceiling. I’m thinking of making a big peach-colored oval.” The architectural detail, however, will definitely be retained. “The handrails are part of the building — the little step down [at the entry], which was a thing they did then. My friends love to have a little Evita moment on the stairs.”

Renovation Architect: Joe Serrins
Built: 1939
Before: An apartment he loved and its blank-slate twin upstairs.
After: The old apartment reproduced in the new, with a couple of tweaks.

*This article appears in the Winter 2017 issue of New York Design Hunting.

This Designer Is Transplanting His Apartment 4 Floors Up