Throwback Home Tour: Blair Clarke's Artful Park Avenue Apartment

Together a chic couple combine their passions for art and antiques to create a harmonious Manhattan home.

Matching pairs of lamps, brass candlesticks, and antique chairs lend a sense of order to the eclectic blend of living room furnishings. Rather than covering each window with its own set of curtains, the Clarkes visually widened the room with one expansive curtain rod.
Matching pairs of lamps, brass candlesticks, and antique chairs lend a sense of order to the eclectic blend of living room furnishings. Rather than covering each window with its own set of curtains, the Clarkes visually widened the room with one expansive curtain rod.
Photography by Patrick Cline. Original text by Shawn Gauthier.
Blair Clarke in the master bedroom of her Park Avenue apartment. 
Blair Clarke in the master bedroom of her Park Avenue apartment. 

In the Park Avenue home of Alistair and Blair Clarke, it’s not uncommon to see an abstract painting contending for wall space with an antique cartel clock. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that he’s the worldwide head of English and European furniture for Sotheby’s, and she’s a dealer in contemporary art. “Do we ever argue?” laughs Blair. “Yes! But, for us, decorating is like ballroom dancing: each partner relies on the other.”

Throwback Home Tour: Blair Clarke's Artful Park Avenue Apartment

Blair planned to replace the George II marble mantel, which is original to the apartment. "It was the first thing I said had to go," she says. "But Alistair said removing it would be a tragedy. He was right; now I cherish it."
Blair planned to replace the George II marble mantel, which is original to the apartment. "It was the first thing I said had to go," she says. "But Alistair said removing it would be a tragedy. He was right; now I cherish it."

It didn’t always run this smoothly. When Blair first met Alistair, their tastes slightly clashed. “His is not a passion you run across every day,” says Blair. Their personalities clicked, however, and their eventual Park Avenue apartment reaped the benefits. “We like to call it a classic hodgepodge with a touch of humor,” she says. “I’m a huge fan of taking risks if it fits into our personality.”

At far left, whimsical contemporary paintings by Natasha Law are paired with a dignified Louis XV marquetry chest of drawers in the Clarkes' foyer. 
At far left, whimsical contemporary paintings by Natasha Law are paired with a dignified Louis XV marquetry chest of drawers in the Clarkes' foyer. 
Blair’s Advice for Pairing Contemporary Art with Antiques:

  • Mix periods and cultures.

    Antique textiles and china, which often inspire the work of contemporary artists, can work well with modern pieces.

  • Don’t be afraid to take risks.

    You’ll achieve surprising results from unlikely pairings.

  • Use contemporary fabrics

    when reupholstering antiques or making curtains for antique-filled rooms.

  • Use color to create

    unconventional juxtapositions.

The living room's neutral backdrop allows the couple's collectino of art and antiques to become the focal point.
The living room's neutral backdrop allows the couple's collectino of art and antiques to become the focal point.
A classic piece by Richard Serra grounds the office&squot;s art. "It&squot;s nice to have a few established artists like Serra to anchor all the emerging work," says Blair. 
A classic piece by Richard Serra grounds the office's art. "It's nice to have a few established artists like Serra to anchor all the emerging work," says Blair. 

                                                                                                      The apartment, which the couple purchased in 2003, is an ode to both aesthetics. In the dining room, a Michael Marra chandelier crafted from six dozen martini glasses casts a glow over Sèvres porcelain. A Louis XV marquetry chest of drawers stands below a series of contemporary silhouettes by artist Natasha Law. “I have to admit that Alistair’s collection has won a place in my heart,” says Blair. “Together, we have pieces that are of the moment and others that feel timeless, and both are equally intriguing.”

Blair’s Tips for Decorating a Space to Complement an Art Collection:
  • Avoid too much clutter.

  • Don’t push your furniture against the wall;

     
    give the art room to breathe.

  • Hang small works on or in bookshelves,


    and keep salon-style work in drawing rooms and studies. And don’t hang pieces too high; eye level is best.

  • Use multiple light sources


    and low-wattage bulbs.

  • Curate your home.


    Rotate a growing art collection or just move pieces around. You’ll be amazed by how different a piece can look in a new setting.

In the dining room, which doubles as a library, artists Sun K. Kwak used tape to provide the floor with an unusal textural element. The chandelier, by artist Michael Marra, is crafted from six dozen martini glasses. 
In the dining room, which doubles as a library, artists Sun K. Kwak used tape to provide the floor with an unusal textural element. The chandelier, by artist Michael Marra, is crafted from six dozen martini glasses. 

Blair and Alistair say they ultimately decorate as a team, and even let their young daughters, Poppy and Georgina, contribute their opinions. “We never take ourselves too seriously,” says Blair. “We’ve created a space in which we not only entertain, but truly live.” 

"We didin&squot;t want the girls&squot; room to be a romper room, filled with electric red and blue plastic," says Blair. "It was important to create a space they could grow into." The gallery wall includes pieces the Clarkes found on their honeymoon as well as contemporary work by Lucy Soni.
"We didin't want the girls' room to be a romper room, filled with electric red and blue plastic," says Blair. "It was important to create a space they could grow into." The gallery wall includes pieces the Clarkes found on their honeymoon as well as contemporary work by Lucy Soni.
Blair’s Favorite Sources for Excellent, Affordable Art:
  • Les Puces

    (Paris’ flea market) is the niftiest spot in the City of Lights.

  • At Manhattan’s 6th Avenue flea market,

    you can pick up surprisingly great pieces to hang in groupings as well as classic gold picture frames.

  • Nonprofit gallery fundraisers

    such as Artists Space or The Drawing Center.

  • The Savannah College of Art and Design

    is a terrific resource for talent. The online gallery, called shopSCAD,
    allows you to discover some true treasures from tomorrow’s stars.

Taking advantage of the hallway's blank canvas, the Clarkes commissioned Kwak to create a tape installation to complement her design on the dining room floor. In the master, a soft palette of blues and greens creates a soothing bedroom suite.
Taking advantage of the hallway's blank canvas, the Clarkes commissioned Kwak to create a tape installation to complement her design on the dining room floor. In the master, a soft palette of blues and greens creates a soothing bedroom suite.
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