Designer Homes

Tour a Designer’s Elegantly Layered New York Apartment

Tour a Designer’s Elegantly Layered New York Apartment
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Like so many other New York apartments, designer Lilse McKenna’s former Greenwich Village one-bedroom began as a basic white box. But it was a high-ceilinged white box, and newly renovated too—save a carved mantelpiece original to the early-20th-century building. “The detailing on that mantel was one of the pieces that sold us on the apartment,” says Lilse; she and her husband signed on the spot.

Luckily, the designer—who launched her eponymous firm after stints with Lindsay Coral Harper and Markham Roberts—was the perfect tenant for such a space: The blank backdrop let Lilse fully indulge her penchant for pattern and color. It’s a skill she picked up from a former  boss. “I was definitely influenced by [Markham’s] use of pattern and layering, especially layering fabrics from all different styles and genres,” says Lilse.

Meanwhile, the lack of a dedicated dining area forced Lilse, an avid entertainer, to get creative with the layout—and with storage solutions. “We keep a folding table under our bed, and we keep the linens under the skirted table,” she says. “We’ve made it work!”

Although Lilse and her husband recently relocated to Brooklyn, the designer looks back fondly on her pattern-happy Manhattan home—and doesn’t regret all the work (and wallpaper) she put into it. “Each apartment I rent in New York is kind of like its own little show house,” she says. “At least it’s up for longer than a season and I get to enjoy it!”

A lively block-print fabric wall treatment brightens up the small foyer, which leads onto the airier bedroom and living room. “I wanted to make it feel like you come through this place of really intense pattern into something really open,” says Lilse. “When you create that kind of dramatic difference it really brings you into the space a bit more, mentally.” She also added interest to the apartment’s basic doors (“they just looked so sad and needed a little help”) with painted faux paneling.

A lively block-print fabric wall treatment brightens up the small foyer, which leads onto the airier bedroom and living room. “I wanted to make it feel like you come through this place of really intense pattern into something really open,” says Lilse. “When you create that kind of dramatic difference it really brings you into the space a bit more, mentally.” She also added interest to the apartment’s basic doors (“they just looked so sad and needed a little help”) with painted faux paneling.

“I wanted to keep the living room bright and airy,” says Lilse. Sheer bamboo shades add privacy but still let in plenty of light, while soft hues and light-toned finishes create a fresh atmosphere. A custom banquette turns one corner of the room into a dedicated dining area (and gives Rupert the French bulldog lots of space to stretch out).

“I wanted to keep the living room bright and airy,” says Lilse. Sheer bamboo shades add privacy but still let in plenty of light, while soft hues and light-toned finishes create a fresh atmosphere. A custom banquette turns one corner of the room into a dedicated dining area (and gives Rupert the French bulldog lots of space to stretch out).

“We knew we wanted to entertain in the space,” Lilse says, so the dining nook needed to work for daily meals and formal affairs alike. To make room for a crowd, Lilse swaps out the petite pedestal table for a larger folding table (dressed up with a pretty tablecloth) and pulls out folding chairs she keeps stashed in the coat closet.

“We knew we wanted to entertain in the space,” Lilse says, so the dining nook needed to work for daily meals and formal affairs alike. To make room for a crowd, Lilse swaps out the petite pedestal table for a larger folding table (dressed up with a pretty tablecloth) and pulls out folding chairs she keeps stashed in the coat closet.

The living room’s elegant console (actually an Ikea table upgraded with a custom skirt) is a secret storage powerhouse, concealing bedding, towels, table linens, and off-season textiles. Books, objets, and a painting found at the Brimfield Antique Show make up an artful vignette on top, creating that layered feel that Lilse loves. “My entire look veers toward lived-in and collected,” she says.

The living room’s elegant console (actually an Ikea table upgraded with a custom skirt) is a secret storage powerhouse, concealing bedding, towels, table linens, and off-season textiles. Books, objets, and a painting found at the Brimfield Antique Show make up an artful vignette on top, creating that layered feel that Lilse loves. “My entire look veers toward lived-in and collected,” she says.

The original fireplace, though no longer functioning, adds tons of historic character to the space. Lilse opted not to change the apartment’s existing white paint job. “The more we added fabric and artwork and furniture into the space, the more I really actually liked this chalky white,” she says. It makes a crisp canvas for artwork and antiques, plus “it has a little texture to it.”

The original fireplace, though no longer functioning, adds tons of historic character to the space. Lilse opted not to change the apartment’s existing white paint job. “The more we added fabric and artwork and furniture into the space, the more I really actually liked this chalky white,” she says. It makes a crisp canvas for artwork and antiques, plus “it has a little texture to it.”

My entire look veers toward lived-in and collected.

— Lilse McKenna
Lilse originally planned to reupholster her red sofa, a holdover from a previous apartment. “It was this tricky red to work with,” she says. “But like all great design challenges it ended up producing what I think is an interesting scheme.” She mixed in plenty of blues and greens to cool things off, and the large-scale artwork tied everything together in a stroke of serendipity: Her cousin had inherited it from their grandparents but, unable to find a spot for it, offered it to Lilse at the perfect moment. “I had completely forgotten about this piece, and it fit perfectly,” she says. “And it was the last thing to go in there!”

Lilse originally planned to reupholster her red sofa, a holdover from a previous apartment. “It was this tricky red to work with,” she says. “But like all great design challenges it ended up producing what I think is an interesting scheme.” She mixed in plenty of blues and greens to cool things off, and the large-scale artwork tied everything together in a stroke of serendipity: Her cousin had inherited it from their grandparents but, unable to find a spot for it, offered it to Lilse at the perfect moment. “I had completely forgotten about this piece, and it fit perfectly,” she says. “And it was the last thing to go in there!”

Lilse livened up the all-white kitchen with accents in natural textures and a quirky mix of artwork. The space provides a sleek and simple counterpoint to the layered look of the rest of the home. “I like things that are a little bit worn looking and roughed up, mixed in with something new to bring it down a notch and make it more livable,” Lilse says. “I really don’t like when a space is entirely brand-new to the point where you’re nervous to sit down on the sofa.”

Lilse livened up the all-white kitchen with accents in natural textures and a quirky mix of artwork. The space provides a sleek and simple counterpoint to the layered look of the rest of the home. “I like things that are a little bit worn looking and roughed up, mixed in with something new to bring it down a notch and make it more livable,” Lilse says. “I really don’t like when a space is entirely brand-new to the point where you’re nervous to sit down on the sofa.”

Each apartment I rent in New York is like its own little show house. At least it’s up for longer than a season and I get to enjoy it!

— Lilse McKenna
When sourcing wallpaper for the bedroom, Lilse looked for a large-scale print with a lot of white space to highlight the 13-foot ceilings while keeping things airy. “It’s such a great space and you kind of lose that if you’re not looking up, and your eye needs to be draw­n up by something,” notes the designer. She landed on a block-print-inspired Les Indiennes print, which she paired with a classic Lee Jofa chintz headboard and a small-scale geometric accent fabric. Crisp white linens balance out the medley of patterns, while a seascape photograph adds a bold blue focal point.

When sourcing wallpaper for the bedroom, Lilse looked for a large-scale print with a lot of white space to highlight the 13-foot ceilings while keeping things airy. “It’s such a great space and you kind of lose that if you’re not looking up, and your eye needs to be draw­n up by something,” notes the designer. She landed on a block-print-inspired Les Indiennes print, which she paired with a classic Lee Jofa chintz headboard and a small-scale geometric accent fabric. Crisp white linens balance out the medley of patterns, while a seascape photograph adds a bold blue focal point.

Designer Lilse McKenna in her former Greenwich Village apartment.

Designer Lilse McKenna in her former Greenwich Village apartment.

I like things that are a little bit worn looking and roughed up, mixed in with something new to bring it down a notch and make it more livable.

— Lilse McKenna

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