Hedge Fund Heaven
With vintage furniture and contemporary art, an Upper East Side house by Julie Hillman welcomes a father and his three daughters
Dan Shaw -- Interior Design, 10/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Gregg Hymowitz is definitely one of those globe-trotting, art-collecting money men who know all about style and luxury from chic nightclubs and five-star hotels. When designer Julie Hillman heard his vision for a new home to share with his daughters, who are 8, 11, and 13, it sounded a little paradoxical: "a sexy pad where my kids will feel completely comfortable."
Because the 4,900-square-foot town house is a rental, Julie Hillman Design concentrated on furnishings. "He had nothing. Not a plate, not a light, not a towel," recalls Hillman, an adrenaline-fueled mother of two who speaks in italics. "We had to buy everything." (Actually, she didn't have to buy art, because his collection already included some stunning contemporary works, including two enormous canvases by Julian Schnabel.) So, how do you decorate a rental for a client with expensive tastes—without wasting his money? "The main thing was to buy furniture that could move with him," Hillman says. "I got him collecting furniture the way he collects art."
The first piece they bought together, a Maria Pergay stainless-steel daybed, set the tone for the living room. "It's completely impractical and decadent," Hillman admits. So is the room's largely white palette and sensual wool shag rug, which invites rolling around on the floor. "The kids can really dive in," she says. To balance the angularity of the Pergay daybed, she and Vladimir Kagan designed an enormous curved sofa, upholstered and finished on-site. Almost everything had to be rigged and brought in through the windows.
Hillman thrives on challenges. She planned to replace the prosaic wood banister of the main staircase. But when the landlord told her it would have to return when Hymowitz vacated, she changed strategies. By hanging Tom Dixon's Mirror Balls down the center of the stairwell, she created a brilliant distraction instead. "I bought the balls in every size," she says. "There were 12 people here to figure out how high each one should hang."
Showstopping lighting is a leitmotif. In the chocolate-brown foyer, kitschy "rock lights" create the feel of "a funky space from the 1970's," she says. The steel-gray dining room becomes moody and magical at night when lit only by branchlike bronze sconces and a cluster of vintage Moroccan lanterns. When the time came to hang the swank Rat Pack–era glass-cylinder chandelier in the living room, there was concern about blocking the view from the sofa to the plasma screen over the fireplace. "God forbid!" jokes Hillman, conceding that she "made it work by just a few inches."
Because she extracted a promise that the kids would not eat while watching TV in the living room, she hid another one in the dining room's French 1970's steel cabinet as an accommodation. And she installed a plasma screen opposite a pair of pink-and-white Marco Zanuso wing chairs on the top-floor landing, between two of the girls' rooms.
Because her own daughter is friends with one of the Hymowitz girls, Hillman instinctively understood what to do with the bedrooms themselves. She grounded each room with a graphic rug that pays homage to pop and op art. Then she gave each a prized vintage Verner Panton chandelier and at least one knockout piece of furniture: a 1940's aluminum folding desk, Panton's Living Tower, Eero Aarnio's suspended Bubble chair fitted with cushions covered in hot-pink goat hair. Because the family's last name begins with H, the girls' beds have Hermès blankets with an H woven into the design.
But not in Dad's lair. His bed, upholstered in molasses-brown patent leather, has a sumptuous fox blanket, and there's a white goatskin rug on the floor. In one corner, Hillman created a striking tableau featuring a Jacques Adnet standing lamp, an aluminum armchair, and perforated-metal bookshelves too beautiful to hold books. She added a soffit around the room to hide halogen fixtures for low-voltage mood lighting. Along the window wall, the soffit also conceals tracks for stainless-steel chain-mail curtains that are at once glamorous and ominous.
Between the windows stands a French 1930's oak desk where the workaholic Hymowitz can catch up on e-mails or the ticker. "He always used to be at the office, but now I find him at home some mornings," she says. And that's the biggest compliment of all.
Previous spread, left: In the dining room of an Upper East Side town house by Julie Hillman Design, 1970's chairs by Maison Jansen surround a repurposed conference table. Its lacquered top reflects a painting by Julian Schnabel.
Previous spread, right: An antique Berber wool rug anchors the foyer, which also features 1970's stools by Michel Boyer, a 1982 bench in stone and enameled iron, 1970's lights, and a photograph by Jill Greenberg.
Left: In the living room, a 1940's Jean Royère chair and a Hervé Van der Straeten table sit beneath a painting by Andy Warhol. Right: A custom sofa by Vladimir Kagan faces a 1960's Maria Pergay daybed. Between them hangs an Italian 1970's glass chandelier. The curtain material is cashmere lined with linen.
Opposite, from left: A 1950's lamp by Felix Agostini and a metal sculpture by Harry Bertoia, next to the living room's fireplace. A bronze sculpture placed on a cocktail table made from the root of a teak tree. The custom wool rug.
Opposite: Agostini sconces and vintage Moroccan lanterns illuminate the dining room.
Left, from top: Lino Sabattini's vase and Jean-Michel Savary's ceramic torso in the living room. Another Schnabel canvas. Center, from top: Shizue Imai's ceramic sculptures on Raymond Cohen's 1970's steel cabinet, which hides the dining room's television. A limited-edition Ron Arad aluminum chair nearby. Right, from top: A ceramic vase in the living room. The master bedroom's sculpture by Alexandre Noll and bookshelves by Vittorio Introini.
Left: From the perspective of the master bedroom's door, a Serge Mouille chandelier, circa 1953, is on axis with a Richard Serra oil. Right: Tom Dixon's polycarbonate pendant globes cascade through the stairwell.
Opposite, from left: A Philippe Hiquily chair and a Jacques Adnet floor lamp, both 1950's, grouped on the custom goatskin rug in the master bedroom. Noll's box sitting on a French 1930's oak desk, paired with a first-edition chair by Verner Panton. The dressing room's T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings chest of drawers, circa 1950, and Oriel Harwood mirror.
Top: Vintage Marco Zanuso chairs and a Patricia Urquiola table furnish the third floor's landing. Center: In the youngest daughter's room, a vintage Panton chandelier is suspended above a 1960's desk, an Eero Saarinen chair, and a custom Tibetan wool rug. Bottom: A Panton chandelier from 1969 appears in the eldest daughter's room, with its Piero Lissoni bed and Paul Smith rug.
Opposite: Studio 65's Bocca sofa beckons from the eldest daughter's terrace.
PROJECT TEAM: MARIE-CHRISTINE KRESSE; MIGUEL CALLAO; LANI ROSENSTOCK. SLING CHAIRS (DINING ROOM), FLOOR LAMP (LIVING ROOM), ARMCHAIR (MASTER BEDROOM): THROUGH GALERIE YVES GASTOU. TABLE (DINING ROOM), SIDE TABLE (MASTER BEDROOM), CHAIRS (LANDING), FLOOR LAMP (YOUNGEST DAUGHTER'S ROOM): THROUGH R.E. STEELE ANTIQUES. STOOLS (FOYER): THROUGH JOUSSE ENTREPRISE. BENCH: THROUGH GALERIE TINO ZERVUDACHI. ROCK LIGHTS: THROUGH TAJAN. RUG: THROUGH PAVILION ANTIQUES. SIDE TABLE (LIVING ROOM): HERVÉ VAN DER STRAETEN. ARMCHAIRS, CERAMIC TORSO (LIVING ROOM), CEILING FIXTURE, FLOOR LAMP, SHELVES (MASTER BEDROOM): THROUGH MAGEN H GALLERY. CHANDELIER (LIVING ROOM): THROUGH COOLHOUSE. DAYBED: THROUGH DEMISCH DANANT. COCKTAIL TABLE: CHISTA. CUSTOM RUG: RUG & KILIM. SOFA FABRIC: ZIMMER + ROHDE. CURTAIN FABRIC (LIVING ROOM), WINDOW SHADE FABRIC (DINING ROOM): BERGAMO FABRICS. CUSTOM SOFA (LIVING ROOM), CUSTOM OTTOMAN (MASTER BEDROOM): VLADIMIR KAGAN DESIGN GROUP THROUGH RALPH PUCCI INTERNATIONAL. THROW (LIVING ROOM), BLANKET (MASTER BEDROOM): J. MENDEL. PENDANT FIXTURES (DINING ROOM): THROUGH LALBALTRY. CUSTOM WINDOW TREATMENTS (DINING, DAUGHTERS ROOMS): MANHATTAN SHADE & GLASS. SCONCES (DINING ROOM), CHANDELIER (YOUNGEST DAUGHTER'S ROOM): THROUGH WRIGHT. CABINET (DINING ROOM): THROUGH COCONUT COMPANY. ROCKING CHAIR: THROUGH BARRY FRIEDMAN. BOOKSHELVES (MASTER BEDROOM): THROUGH GALERIE HEGOA. CURTAIN MATERIAL: WHITING & DAVIS. SHEER FABRIC: ROGERS & GOFFIGON. CUSTOM BED: TRIBECA UPHOLSTERY & DRAPERIES; CORTINA LEATHERS (UPHOLSTERY). CUSTOM RUGS (BEDROOMS), CUSTOM CHAIR CUSHION (ELDEST DAUGHTER'S ROOM): RUG COMPANY. PENDANT FIXTURES (STAIRWELL): TOM DIXON. DESK (MASTER BEDROOM): THROUGH JACQUES LAFON XX SIÈCLE. DESK CHAIR: THROUGH MIGUEL SACO GALLERY. DRESSER (DRESSING ROOM): THROUGH DUANE. MIRROR: THROUGH DAVID GILL GALLERIES. TABLE (LANDING): B&B ITALIA. DESK (YOUNGEST DAUGHTER'S ROOM): THROUGH CANAL STREET ANTIQUES. CHAIR: KNOLL THROUGH CITE. BED (ELDEST DAUGHTER'S ROOM): LIVING DIVANI THROUGH EUROPEAN LIVING. SIDE TABLES: THROUGH CAT BERRO. CHANDELIER: THROUGH LA GALERIE MODERNE. LAMP: THROUGH MAX & CO. CHAIR: ADELTA THROUGH HIVE MODERN. SOFA (ELDEST DAUGHTER'S TERRACE): HELLER. STOOLS: THROUGH COLLINS AND MCCULLOUGH. MILLWORK: FIRST WALL CONSTRUCTION. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: DONALD MCGEACHY. LANDSCAPING CONTRACTOR: WINDOW BOX. STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: DUBINSKY CONSULTING ENGINEERS. MEP: MATTHEW K. BENDIX CONSULTING ENGINEERS. ARCHITECT OF RECORD: MICHAEL ZENREICH ARCHITECT. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: ADN CONSTRUCTION GROUP.