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A Designer’s Respectful Renovation of a Historic Manhattan Home

A Designer’s Respectful Renovation of a Historic Manhattan Home
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Designer Bennett Leifer had long dreamed of living in one of the stately buildings that line Gramercy Park, one of the last private green spaces in Manhattan. Now he is the proud owner of a key to that urban oasis—along with a one-bedroom prewar apartment in a neo-Gothic-style building he first admired in his early 20s.

Featuring large rooms, a sensible layout, and a sweeping view of the park, the apartment was an unanticipated purchase, but one Bennett knew was too good to pass up. And though it wasn’t hard for the designer to imagine what the once-dated space could become, transforming the apartment into his ideal home “required a lot of cleaning up,” Bennett says.

From the exterior, the formality and symmetry that Bennett so loves about the neo-Gothic style were apparent; inside, layers of bad wallpaper and surfaces subjected to decades of wear and tear meant Bennett had his work cut out for him. He started by replacing all things electrical, skim-coating the walls, and squaring off openings. He restored original details, such as the fireplace and the living room windows, to a modernized state of their former glory. And he brought in furnishings representing a healthy mix of provenance and periods, all with easy living in mind.

“What I’ve always loved about Gramercy Park,” Bennett says, “is that it’s such a small area with so many different architectural styles, and each one is unique thanks to the way they’ve been so beautifully maintained.” Considering his own thoughtfully updated apartment, it’s safe to say Bennett is keeping that spirit of creativity and preservation alive.

In the foyer, Venetian plaster walls amplify the natural light from neighboring rooms. A palm-leaf print de Gournay screen and a rug by Edward Fields, custom-made for Bennett’s room at the 2015 Kips Bay Showhouse, create an intriguing interplay of color and pattern.

In the foyer, Venetian plaster walls amplify the natural light from neighboring rooms. A palm-leaf print de Gournay screen and a rug by Edward Fields, custom-made for Bennett’s room at the 2015 Kips Bay Showhouse, create an intriguing interplay of color and pattern.

Elsewhere in the entryway stands a black chest topped with a plaster lamp and a rock-crystal bowl. Above, a contemporary stroke of purple by artist James Naras hangs in conversation with the splatter-print area rug below.

Elsewhere in the entryway stands a black chest topped with a plaster lamp and a rock-crystal bowl. Above, a contemporary stroke of purple by artist James Naras hangs in conversation with the splatter-print area rug below.

What I’ve always loved about Gramercy Park is that it’s such a small area with so many different architectural styles, and each one is unique thanks to the way they’ve been so beautifully maintained.

— Bennett Leifer
Designer Bennett Leifer in his apartment’s living room, where a pair of cocktail tables and a velvet sofa create a cozy conversation area. The large-scale artwork is a painting by Minjung Kim titled Predestination. The English silver tray adds a note of traditional polish.

Designer Bennett Leifer in his apartment’s living room, where a pair of cocktail tables and a velvet sofa create a cozy conversation area. The large-scale artwork is a painting by Minjung Kim titled Predestination. The English silver tray adds a note of traditional polish.

A Marc Bankowsky bench flanks one side of the live-edge dining table, providing ample seating while keeping sight lines open. Contemporary chairs in a rich orange velvet pick up on the warmer tones of the adjacent photographs—and, paired with an ornate brass side chair and classic candlesticks, make for a stylish mix of old meets new.

A Marc Bankowsky bench flanks one side of the live-edge dining table, providing ample seating while keeping sight lines open. Contemporary chairs in a rich orange velvet pick up on the warmer tones of the adjacent photographs—and, paired with an ornate brass side chair and classic candlesticks, make for a stylish mix of old meets new.

A medley of vintage artworks lends spirit to the black-and-white kitchen. The slim marble countertop and shelf house a tightly curated collection of barware, kitchen accessories, and serving pieces.

A medley of vintage artworks lends spirit to the black-and-white kitchen. The slim marble countertop and shelf house a tightly curated collection of barware, kitchen accessories, and serving pieces.

In the master bedroom, the custom carpet’s turquoise streak matches the hue of the bed’s quilt and pillows. Classical lamps by Parzinger and a milky Murano glass chandelier light the space—a pairing as eclectic as the gallery wall surrounding the upholstered headboard.

In the master bedroom, the custom carpet’s turquoise streak matches the hue of the bed’s quilt and pillows. Classical lamps by Parzinger and a milky Murano glass chandelier light the space—a pairing as eclectic as the gallery wall surrounding the upholstered headboard.

Shop the look of Bennett’s apartment →

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