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This 1980s Fifth Avenue Apartment Was Transformed Thanks to British Charm | Architectural Digest


The idea of perspective is bandied about, toyed with, and turned on its head in this Upper East Side apartment, where London-based womenswear designer Jessica Kayll and her partner, New York real estate developer Mark Fisch, have set up their stateside home. For starters, the pandemic forced U.K. interior designer Rachel Chudley to conjure what she calls a “modernist baroque” tableau of texture and color, soul, and wit in her first American project from a transatlantic distance, having only been to the Fifth Avenue apartment once, when it was just four boxy rooms woefully bereft of any architectural charm.

What the ’80s-era flat lacked in classical detail, it more than made up for with one breathtakingly redeeming quality: “The most insane views ever,” Chudley says of the 21st-floor vantage point, where a double dose of scenery features Central Park’s verdant expanse on one side and the brusque intensity of New York’s skyline on the other.

So, although the designer’s marquee mission was to maximize sweeping bird’s-eye–view scenes, ceding the interiors to the point of minimalism was not an option. “Jessica and Mark both have a real love for dramatic design,” Chudley says. The designer drew upon her clients’ penchant for spectacle—Kayll’s kimono-inspired silk robes flourish with hand-painted florals while Fisch, a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a renowned collector of Old Masters paintings—to celebrate the vistas in perspective-bending ways that don’t sacrifice functionality or flair.

“I’m really drawn to color and things that are old and expressive,” Kayll says. “I absolutely love that each room now has its own distinct personality.” To set a theatrical mood in the home, Chudley swathed the entryway with wallpaper by Zuber, specifically a 17th-century–style pearlescent trompe l’oeil grand drape that lends movement, volume, light, and shadow to the 20th-century space. “The idea is that when you come through the front door, the curtain rises on the beautiful view of Central Park from across the living room,” Chudley says of the applause-worthy entrance.

The soft sunlight streaming from the living room’s west-facing windows needed a little help diffusing throughout the space, so Chudley slicked the ceiling in a high-gloss, lilac-gray paint by Donald Kaufman. The paint also mirrors the strong shapes in the design (the silhouette of the bespoke bar cabinet, for instance, echoes the rooftops of New York City) in the same way that the surface of a lake might—with blurred mystery and shadowy intrigue. Still, a pleasantly pudgy custom sofa in sunny velvet and a cozy pair of shearling Phillip Arctander clam chairs are an irresistible invitation to gather beneath the hazy, enigmatic surface for, say, a tarot reading.

Meanwhile, the couple’s shared office is boldly lined in deep claret velvet. Old Masters are in rotation for display on these walls, along with the current showing: Tomo Campbell’s contemporary canvases, kinetic poetry in oil paint. But in truth, its inspiration is much more domestic: A bedroom in the couple’s London residence that’s cocooned in burgundy velvet.

To translate the sequestered-chic style to New York, Chudley chose an Abbott & Boyd velvet wall textile. Not only does the weighty fabric perform as luxurious insulation—“I call the office ‘The Warm Room,’” says Fisch, who begins most days in the snug space with coffee and a newspaper—but it also has an unexpected saturating effect on the view of the park. “It’s like a dark frame around a painting,” says Chudley. “It really intensifies the colors outside.”

By contrast, in the dining area Chudley played up a minor character, the sky, in the room’s eastern panorama of bustling metropolis to create a breathy, light-filled aerie. “I wanted to extend the sky as far as it would go into the room,” she says. Such a feat was an achievement of both color (for example, the celestine blue wall paint, also by Kaufman, is heightened in the veining of the marble table) and movement—or the perception thereof.

Even though the diaphanous, vegetable-dyed silk drapes practically billow at mere suggestion, the ceiling’s textured linen covering by Surface View depicts a 19th-century landscape of Margate, an English seaside town. But here it evokes a wild yonder spun with clouds, proving that the sky’s the limit when it comes to designing an apartment like this: A 1,600-square-foot rental (yes, you read that correctly), rife with contractual limitations, but all the aesthetic permanence and sentimental ownership of home—the most satisfying shift in perspective of all. “I would call it transformational,” Kayll says.


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