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Publication Date: 2014-02-11

House Tours

Celerie Kemble Designs A Spunky Apartment in New York's Gracie Square

A series of meticulously executed design decisions work together to create a luminous New York City pied-a-terre equally suited for formal dinner parties and extended family gatherings.

One renowned resident of Gracie Square—a cluster of neo-Gothic, circa 1929 buildings facing Gracie Mansion, the New York mayoral residence—was composer Irving Berlin. He lived in this graciously proportioned apartment situated in a building designed by famed architect Rosario Candela and co-architect William Lawrence Bottomley. When it was purchased by a forty something Philippines-born couple with three young girls, it still boasted stained glass doorway transoms with musical themes and the interiors seemed dark and stuffy. Fortuitously, through friends, the couple met designer Celerie Kemble and her associate, Heidi Bianco.

What Kemble and Bianco did, was not unlike reinterpreting a beloved musical score. “The client wanted more femininity and spunk while also incorporating modern pops,” explains Kemble, “so we had to carefully measure where to use that aesthetic so as not to become incongruous with the traditional lines of the space.”

“We didn’t want the family or guests to feel as though things were too delicate or forbidden,” adds Kemble, “so we intentionally mixed textures to strike a balance that was neither too glossy nor too matte.” Ergo, the quietly shimmering fabrics, touches of glimmering glass and muted metals. This balance also permeates the furnishings—a large family-friendly living room sofa is paired with tufted, very stylized armchairs, and occasional 1960s and ’70s accent pieces ramp up the apartment’s subtle polish without tilting toward glitz. The effects stay with you like, well, the hummable refrain of a popular melody. Music to this family’s ears.

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