Nowhere does that sentiment ring more true than in his own pied-à-terre in Manhattan’s West Village, a carefully reconstructed Greek Revival treasure trove with recessed crown moldings, faux-grained mahogany doors, and two stately Ionic columns delineating the living area.
So when Schafer decided to reimagine the parlor-floor space through a slightly more contemporary lens with help from his firm’s interiors department, it wasn’t without some hesitation. “I’m a hopeless traditionalist,” he says. “I love layers and things that tell a story. Anyone who’s in this business falls in love with objects to their own peril. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve loosened up about mixing pieces from different time periods and paying more attention to what has a nice line or variation in wood color. It’s nice to have this space as a canvas to sketch on as my design thinking evolves.”
The latest iteration of the 900-square-foot apartment retains its classical underpinnings yet serves as an experiment in judicious updating. “I wanted to see what would happen if I maintained the envelope of the space but made just a few impactful changes,” says Schafer of his understated approach to editing.
First, he removed heavy curtains and wall upholstery in the bedroom to give the space an airier feel, then painted the partitions in soothing shades of blue and beige.
Knowing that he would retain many of the furnishings—which were collected over time both on professional scouting trips and personal vacations with his wife—he slipcovered chairs in neutral linens and enlivened the sofa with vibrant textiles and throw pillows; a graphic black-and-white rug in the living room lends a sense of modernity and movement to the gently rearranged period-era antiques. “I wanted it to feel different without completely recasting the space,” says Schafer.
But aside from paring down the physical objects in the various rooms, the biggest change comes courtesy of the artwork. “There’s more square footage on the walls than on the floors,” says Schafer of the surfaces that arise as a result of the narrow residence’s soaring 13-foot ceilings.
“The volume of the space is so unique that it forces you to think differently about how you decorate.” He opted for large-scale contemporary works by the likes of Corey Daniels that bring his beloved antiques and early 1900s–era New York engravings into the 21st century.
The combined effect is a subtle shift that nevertheless transforms the home into a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city. “If I were a more rigorous modernist, I would have been even more clean and minimalist,” says Schafer. “At first, I was worried that I had not changed enough. But you have to be true to who you are. This feels like a natural progression.”
Architect Gil Schafer worked with his firm’s interior design team to gently reimagine his Greenwich Village pied-à-terre with an eye to modernity. In the living room, a suzani sourced on a trip to Morocco enlivens the neutral-hued sofa, which is slipcovered in linen from Arabel Fabrics and flanked by a pair of lamps from Sutter Antiques. Artwork by Harrison Walker and Corey Daniels line the walls, and the custom cocktail table was fabricated by Baba Wood.
Schafer repainted the living room walls in Farrow & Ball’s Drop Cloth and subtly rearranged the furnishings—including a slipcovered sofa upholstered in linen from Arabel Fabrics, an antique library chair in Edelman Leather, and a prototype for a Faaborg chair designed by Kaare Klint in 1914—for an airier feel. A Chinese urn from Jayne Thompson Antiques and a brass hanging lantern by Robert Kime complete the look.
A custom scagliola mantel designed by Schafer and fabricated by plaster artisan Ahmad Suleiman dominates a light-filled corner of the living room. The artwork is by Jack Sonenberg. An antique dining table purchased in Bath, England, serves as a desk for post-office late-night work; it’s paired with a 19th-century leather and wood library chair.
A nook off the living room features a Regency mahogany cabinet from Niall Smith Antiques, a mahogany side chair from Sutter Antiques, and original artwork by Maine artist Corey Daniels. The Kashmiri lamps are from Robert Kime, and the marble urn was acquired at an auction at Christie’s.
New York artist Jean Carrau created the faux wood–grained mahogany doors throughout the apartment; the hardware is from E.R. Butler & Co. Walls are upholstered in brown felt fabric from Rogers & Goffigon.
Schafer designed the custom canopy bed in the main suite in the style of a 19th-century campaign bed and had the headboard and bed skirt covered in suede by Dualoy; the faux fur throw is from KRB, and the wool throw is from Aero. He also custom designed the ebonized bookcase in the corner. The antique mirror was purchased at Nadin & Macintosh, the Swedish case clock is from Evergreen Antiques, and the cast-iron urn was bought on a trip to London and placed atop a Regency mahogany pedestal from Cove Landing.
“I love layers and things that tell a story,” says Schafer. “Anyone who’s in this business falls in love with objects to their own peril.” In the bedroom, which is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Light Blue, an antique carpet found in Maine sits atop sea-grass wall-to-wall carpeting by Patterson Flynn & Martin. The 1940s chest of drawers from Sutter Antiques is topped with a Russian mirror from Evergreen Antiques and a contemporary pastel landscape sketch from Charles Plante Fine Arts. A plaster ceiling medallion found at the Pier Antiques Show hangs above a doorframe leading to the dressing area.
The dressing room channels Schafer’s classical leanings with a painted wood chandelier from Sutter Antiques, a 19th-century English Arts and Crafts writing table and suede-and-copper mirror, and a Queen Anne side chair from Cove Landing. Above the table hang an 18th-century engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and a 19th-century lithograph by David Rogers.
The bath echoes the apartment’s traditional aesthetic with a glass-leg sink stand from Urban Archaeology; faucets from Barber Wilsons; a custom mirror designed by Schafer; and a toilet, tub, and sconce by Waterworks. The tub enclosure and sink countertop add contrast to wood paneling in Benjamin Moore’s Seapearl thanks to Nero Marquina marble.
“This last is important. Even in corporate environments, it is very difficult to remove an underling for incompetence if that underling has seniority and a long history of good performance reviews. As in government bureaucracies, the easiest way to deal with such people is often to “kick them upstairs”: promote them to a higher post, where they become somebody else’s problem.”