Home Tour: An Architectural Gem with a Collected Interior
A New York real estate agent finds his prewar counterpart in a one-bedroom on Gramercy Park.
In New York City it is rare to find an apartment that, from the very beginning, perfectly aligns with your own sense of style. So before renovations, before paint, before furniture—to come across a place that seems like it was built only for you to inhabit, is in a word: exceptional. This is just what happened to Manhattan-based real estate agent Scott Francis. Francis is an avid real estate scout — it comes with the job, right? — and had been watching a certain block on Gramercy Park for years, hoping to refresh his browser at just the right moment. “I saw it online at 9pm,” said Francis, of a 1,000-square-foot architectural gem on the idyllic corner of 19th and Irving, “and by 9:30am I was standing in the apartment with the agent.” His only question: “What’s the longest lease I can sign?”
“All of the architectural details are original to the building,” noted Francis. The prewar structure, constructed in 1910, lends the one-bedroom its “old New York” appeal, featuring sixteen-foot tall ceilings, ornate wooden paneling, herringbone floor, and a hand-carved, wood-burning fireplace. These historic stylings, while universally charming, were essential to someone with Francis’s design sense. “My personal style is very traditional,” he offered. And how could it not be? He grew up in Massachusetts and has always had a penchant for antiquing. “As my mom calls it, ‘we are true Puritans in that we love a bargain’,” laughed Francis. His grandfather was a long-time employee of American silversmith Reed & Barton, so reaching for an heirloom-quality silver platter for a casual dinner party is commonplace. However, the allure is not lost, he explained, “I have always been drawn to the tradition of silver—the concept of polishing, and taking care of a piece.”
Rather than blandly appointing his home with precious collectibles, Francis layered styles. In the living room, he gave the wood-paneled ceiling a chic update with a sculptural chandelier fashioned from thin brass arms and exposed bulbs, a piece he designed himself at a hole-in-the-wall lighting shop in the Bowery. A sturdy Mastercraft coffee table (Francis’s favorite find) coexists with a rug from Ralph Lauren Home, a Restoration Hardware armchair, and a Chinese garden stool Francis found in the Hamptons. Cushy forms, like a pair of cream-colored Holly Hunt sofas, ground the living area, and host a gentlemanly assemble of wool, velvet and cashmere pillows and throws. “My place might look formal, but the way I hope to make people feel when they’re in my home is relaxed,” shared Francis, who relishes the idea of “kicking off your shoes” in a beautiful backdrop.
The elevated ceiling makes way for the tenant’s eclectic art collection, most of which he’s scoured from various estate sales. “That’s how I spend my Saturdays and Sundays,” he explained, “at antique stores; or driving around the coast, stopping in and picking up interesting relics.” His maritime affinity, learned from a life spent a stone’s throw from the ocean, is seen throughout. An emphatic example dangles above the hearth, in an antique painting of an old clipper ship—another estate sale find. The living room’s overall nostalgia is penetrated by undeniably modern chair silhouettes, see Kartell’s Ghost chair, dining chairs by B&B Italia, and a blue velvet incarnation of Knoll’s Brno chair.
Beyond the well-collected living room, treasured curios continue into the apartment’s master bedroom. No style is lost inside the room’s limited square footage, seemingly enlarged by the lofty ceilings. An edited medley of antique and modern pieces brings the room to life. Francis’s inherited four-poster bed stands center behind a pair of multitasking x-benches from Ralph Lauren Home, while an early edition Ethan Allen mirror hangs alongside a ceramic lamp from One Kings Lane.
Francis’s architecturally generous apartment offered a fitting canvas for his contemporary assemblage of meaningful antiques. “I love to entertain here,” said Francis, recounting an annual Christmas Party he hosts with upwards of 150 people—complete with a sixteen-foot tannenbaum. “If you have a nice, well-appointed home you have to use it,” he concluded, “It means nothing if you have no one to share it with.”