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Publication Date: 2018-02-05

Behind the Design

Designer to the Rescue: Will Wick

San Francisco-based designer Will Wick shares how he transformed a New York City home into a sophisticated, light-filled property with ample space for a family of five. 

When I signed on to design a pied-à-terre for a family of five in a prewar building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I knew I would need to creatively address two major challenges often found in buildings of the era: limited natural light and lack of space. Because this is not their full-time residence, I set out to design a space that embodied sophistication and emulated a luxury hotel where the family could stay comfortably.

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The living room of a Manhattan pied-à-terre designed by Will Wick for a San Francisco family. The sofa is by Ico Parisi, and the leather chairs are from Coup d'Etat; the walls are covered in a silk wallpaper by Schumacher, and the Ed Rusha artwork over the mantel is lit by a Arne Jacobson sconce. Photos: Michael Mundy.

Natural light is notoriously elusive in urban building clusters and the tall, narrow windows made it tricky to rely solely on natural sources. The ceilings in the living room did not allow for recessed lighting, so I chose a combination of wall, floor, and table lamps, sourcing mostly mid-century Italian lighting. I was particularly drawn to sculptural wall lighting for two reasons: its incredible contribution to the design, and its ability to cast light above and below.

The client wanted an additional bedroom and bathroom carved out of the 2,700-square-foot framework. I started by sketching out possibilities on tracing paper on top of the existing plan–trying six or seven potential layouts before honing in on a final design. I worked closely with an engineer to identify plumbing, structural beams, and exhaust pipes. Older buildings can be tricky and knowing codes and finding small, overlooked and interesting spaces to incorporate into a new layout are tricks I’ve learned over time. In the end, I was able to divide a larger room and carve out a 4x4 space from a closet to accommodate a new powder room, as well as incorporate an extra bedroom complete with a queen bed and nightstands.

A custom floor-to-ceiling walnut bookcase with built-in lighting serves as a focal point in the living room, and houses the clients' book collection and antiquities and mementos acquired on the family's travels.

In the dining area, a table base by Blackman Cruz in Los Angeles is fitted with a custom glass top.

The floorplan was reconfigured to create a new master bedroom, allowing room for a queen-size bed.

The children's room, where natural light is complemented by a sculptural floor lamp.

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