Lush Life

Architect and designer Jennifer Vaughn Miller creates a jewel-box apartment on New York City’s Upper East Side

"Comforting, sexy, grounded, and strong" is how Jennifer Vaughn Miller describes the palette of the den in her clients' Madison Avenue residence.
"Comforting, sexy, grounded, and strong" is how Jennifer Vaughn Miller describes the palette of the den in her clients' Madison Avenue residence.
Designer Jennifer Vaughn Miller.
Designer Jennifer Vaughn Miller.

Decorating fads have no place in Jennifer Vaughn Miller’s work. “I am not a trendy person,” says the New York City–based architect and designer, “and I will never try to be.” A commitment to classic pieces and carefully edited vignettes is paramount in each of her projects, from a weekend retreat on Long Island’s North Fork to a sprawling Lake Austin compound in her home state of Texas. But it’s a recently completed apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that best displays her delicate touch with stately interiors. Using a palette of crisp and calming neutrals—punctuated with metallic accents, Regency-style detailing, and luxe statement pieces—Vaughn Miller infused the space with personality and contrast.

Judicious symmetry and a neutral color scheme predominate in the living room, which overlooks the Central Park reservoir.
Judicious symmetry and a neutral color scheme predominate in the living room, which overlooks the Central Park reservoir.
Lush Life

The apartment, which began as a gut renovation, showcases its elegant bones against striking views of Central Park. Custom furniture and antique finds create a graceful flow from room to room. “I like bringing vintage pieces new life through reupholstery—or pairing an 1800s cabinet with a modern chair. That juxtaposition really interests me,” Vaughn Miller says. The same goes for the tension between light and dark, as in the checkerboard floor of the foyer (punctuated by a 19th-century settee in teal velvet) or the luminous, all-white marble bathroom versus the moody atmosphere of the den.

Frosted windows afford the bathroom a measure of privacy.
Frosted windows afford the bathroom a measure of privacy.
An 1800s velvet settee greets visitors in the foyer.
An 1800s velvet settee greets visitors in the foyer.

With each project she takes on, Miller says she strives for “total design”—which she defines as fully incorporating and realizing her clients’ needs through her vision. “It’s not just the overall space; it’s every vignette, every curiosity,” she says, from each lighting fixture (many sourced from Paris flea markets) installed throughout the apartment to the crisp linens that offset the ebonized sleigh bed in the master bedroom. As for Miller’s favorite piece in the entire home? That would be the tufted mint-green kitchen banquette—a custom piece based on a shoot the designer stumbled upon in an old issue of Vogue Paris. “So much of what I do is inspired by fashion,” she explains. “I saw [this spread] that was photographed in a diner, and there was a banquette in a much deeper green. From the moment I saw [the kitchen], I said, ‘I need to do the banquette in here.’”

The contrast between light and dark is a recurring theme throughout Vaughn Miller's work.
The contrast between light and dark is a recurring theme throughout Vaughn Miller's work.
A sculptural bust by the window creates a quiet story in a corner of the living room.
A sculptural bust by the window creates a quiet story in a corner of the living room.
Lush Life

Her highly edited style and attention to detail—“down to whether they’ll want toothbrushes and toothpaste in a medicine cabinet”—mean that Vaughn Miller is truly in tune with her clients’ lifestyle. “Do they have kids? Do they have pets? Where are they in their lives, and how will they use the space? I’m not someone who’s just going to buy a stack of books and put them on a shelf,” she says. “I am passionate about every single moment.”

A fashion spread in a French magazine inspired the tufted kitchen banquette in a cool hue.
A fashion spread in a French magazine inspired the tufted kitchen banquette in a cool hue.
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