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Swept Away

What would pry two aesthetes from a Park Avenue apartment? The answer is a classic ’60s modernist icon with dazzling East River views.

The living room. Photo: Michael Mundy
The living room. Photo: Michael Mundy

“We loved the apartment we had on Park Avenue,” Nancy Novogrod recalls, explaining why she and her husband, John, made a radical move to another part of town and a very different type of building. “The last apartment had three fireplaces, beamed ceilings, and that huge living room!” In other words, it was perfect for major entertaining and dinner parties during the 21 years that Nancy was editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure magazine and before that editor-in-chief of House & Garden, then known as HG. But, Nancy adds, “I am a big believer in change.” That goes for all aspects of her life, so on a lark, she ventured out with a real-estate agent who showed her this apartment at the United Nations Plaza. “I was so stunned by the light and the view and the openness that I decided that I really wanted to live here,” Nancy says. “John came and felt the same. It’s like a new beginning for us.” Also new is the Culturati Travel Design company that Nancy founded working with Valerie Wilson Travel, drawing on her contacts and insider access to the worlds of art, architecture, design, and culinary discoveries.

John’s study, seen above from the living room, is accessed through a new pocket door in the wall added by Alexandra Champalimaud, who not only helped with the décor of the apartment but also reimagined the layout with a new kitchen, two master baths, lots of storage, plus walk-in closets for him and her. The vintage Milo Baughman swivel chairs are covered in Mark Alexander Plush Ottanio fabric and reupholstered by Brad Jobe Bespoke Furniture. The classic Billy Baldwin sofa belonged to Nancy’s parents and has traveled with her to her various abodes.

The views in the living room extend to the north, east, and south, with the dining area tucked in the northeast corner, where watching the boat traffic on the river becomes its own home movie. Photo: Michael Mundy
“John had this enormous appetite for color,” Champalimaud says, noting that they arrived at this particular shade of green lacquer paint after debating many samples. Champalimaud’s millwork design for the bookshelves created a niche for the Avery Boardman sofa covered in Kravet fabric, which also pulls out to become a bed. Empty nesters as they might be, they are visited frequently by their son and daughter and their grandkids. Photo: Michael Mundy
Champalimaud also designed a hidden door in the study bookshelves with access to the bathroom. Photo: Michael Mundy
The desk in John’s study overlooks the mesmerizing, ever-changing tides of the river and provides the perfect vantage point for viewing Louis Kahn’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. Photo: Michael Mundy
The kitchen was renovated to include a counter for informal dining as well as extra prep surface. “I thought we’d use the dining table much more than we do,” Nancy says. “But it’s lovely looking out of that window as we eat off the counter.” Photo: Michael Mundy
“The sofa I have in the bedroom is from our second apartment on East 64th Street, and we’ve taken that sofa along ever since,” Nancy says. Photo: Michael Mundy
There was very little storage in the apartment until Champalimaud worked her magic to create walk-in closets for both Nancy and John. “No one could have handled redoing the Raffles Hotel in Singapore,” Nancy says of her designer’s flair for interweaving the practical and the exquisite. “I think she brings a very special perspective to the residential. What you really learn from designing hotels: They’re all about function and utility and a sense of reality, but also a bit of fantasy. And Alexandra brings that with dots of color and a love of beauty.” Champalimaud’s projects include Monkey Island Estate in Berkshire, Claridge’s in London, the redone Hotel Bel-Air in California, and the Troutbeck in Amenia, New York. Photo: Michael Mundy
Champalimaud clad Nancy’s bathroom with the palest of creamy rose-colored marble, giving it all the escape of a luxury hotel spa. Photo: Michael Mundy
Nancy’s office doubles as another guest area and is often a dreamland for her grandkids. The Brunschwig & Fils Anagrams on Vinyl wall covering adds an almost imperceptible layer of pattern to the cozy space. “We are not quite living in the New York we know,” Nancy says of the move. “This is a very different place and a very different lifestyle.” And the change indeed has been very, very good. Photo: Michael Mundy
A Modernist Apartment With Dazzling Views