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
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.
…Which is also after: The upstairs apartment seen here is the empty vessel into which the décor from downstairs will be poured.
The rug on the wall is vintage, made by Cabin Crafts and found in a shop in Serrins’s hometown of Glens Falls, New York. The paint: Four colors divide the room into zones, ignoring the moldings completely. The lamp is a Wendell Castle–ish design by Alan Friedman. It was a purchase made with a client in mind. Serrins liked it too much to give it up. The sofa is a quasi-Brutalist Adrian Pearsall piece from the 1960s. The white chairs facing it are by Milo Baughman.
The old bath was charming but worn.
The bathroom: It’s the only room that Serrins did over completely. The bisected mirror has one panel in rosy peach. “It’s not a very colorful bathroom,” he says, “but that’s the color — and it makes you look really tan.”
The old kitchen was grim.
The kitchen: The shelving is custom, made by Wood by Design to Serrins’s specs. The statuary-marble countertop and backsplash add a luxe topping to Ikea cabinetry. The doors on either side of the Bosch oven are Sub-Zero mini-fridges.
The old bedroom.
The light fixture is by Gaetano Sciolari, from the mid-1960s. The print is by the artist Matt Connors. ”A cool guy,” says Serrins. “I babysit his dog.” The blue paint: “I liked the relation of that to the carpet, which is my grandmother’s,” says Serrins, “and the curtains, which are pink.”
The ceramic lamp is vintage, bought in a shop in New York; Serrins thinks that the painting next to the closet, which he found upstate, might be by the same artist. The curtains are shirting fabric. Serrins made the ombré treatment himself, dunking the bottom in a bucket of pink dye. The bed was designed by Serrins’s own studio.