Versailles on the Upper East Side
Belle Époque brothels, ’70s discos, and vintage couture inform a jewel-box apartment by Sasha Bikoff
When you have a deep appreci-
ation for the decoration of the past,” says New York City designer Sasha Bikoff, “you can bring whimsical motifs into the future.” It’s a philosophy that clearly resonated for her client, the owner of a three-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side who wanted to create a contemporary oasis worthy of Marie Antoinette or Madame de Pompadour. For Bikoff, who spent a year studying in Paris soaking in its architecture, museums, and rich aesthetic history, the one-of-a-kind project represented an anachronistic take on classical French glamour.
A cohesive blend of disparate design elements informs much of Bikoff’s work. “My forte is Italian and French midcentury furniture, so there’s always going to be an element of the ’60s in my spaces,” she says. Her commissions of custom Chinese rugs, on the other hand, are a nod to the 19th-century tradition among the French moneyed classes of integrating Far Eastern elements into their interiors.
High-fashion references are another Bikoff signature. In one corner of her client’s master bedroom stands a dress form clad in collector-worthy vintage Chanel. It and the room’s other luxe details—an Old Hollywood dresser, a custom headboard upholstered in blush-pink silk velvet—are reflected in antiqued Venetian gold-veined mirror tiles across the ceiling. (When Bikoff’s installer remarked that he hadn’t worked on this type of surface since the ’80s, she replied, “That’s what I like to hear!”) Window treatments swagged with soft creases underscore the boudoir-like vibe. Walls are lined in the same subtly iridescent ivory silk used for pooled draperies framing an adjoining dressing room, where Tracy Kendall trompe l’oeil wallpaper depicts rows of vintage perfume bottles and an Austrian vanity mirror from the 1960s adds a dose of flower power.
Wallpaper is one element Bikoff can’t get enough of. She enjoys wrapping large areas with loud patterns, but admits that the larger-than-life look isn’t for everyone. “A powder room is the perfect place to do a fun, whimsical wallpaper because it’s a small space that really does set the tone,” she says. For this apartment’s powder room, the designer chose a Voutsa design portraying flirty lips in shades of red and pink. “We call it smooches, my client and I,” she adds. Another favorite pattern that finally saw the light of day: the Pierre Frey gourmandise fabric used to upholster a sofa in the room dedicated to the client’s three white Maltese dogs.
Bikoff further incorporates fashion into decor by scouting apparel-remnant fabrics for use as upholstery and drapery yardage. A pattern first spotted on the runway becomes a striking decor accent: the blue bedroom, for instance, features Prabal Gurung fabric used for drapery, a side chair, and throw pillows. Ornate English mirrors and an Asian area rug are juxtaposed against a rich navy grasscloth wallcovering for an overwhelmingly sensory experience.
Sly allusions abound throughout the space. In the dining area, a round wood table adds warmth against Lucite balloon-back dining chairs upholstered with Fornasetti’s Bohemian Glasses Paglia fabric. The textile also echoes the palette of the Reginald Marsh painting hanging above. At the other end of the dining area, a contemporary ice-cream cone painting by Donald Baechler marks the transition to the living room, a long rectangular space without much architectural interest. Bikoff added rounded furniture shapes to soften the room’s harsh corners, with a Milo Baughman taupe mohair sectional lending a Studio 54 party vibe. In keeping with the glamorous theme, the designer had 24k gold leaf applied to the ceilings. “I wanted everything to sparkle,” she explains.
Although some may shy away from mixing metals, Bikoff says, “There’s a way to do it where it’s not overkill—so it just ends up looking sparkly, like a star.” She united the room’s varied metallic elements with drapery fabric that has both a gold and a silver thread running through it. A pair of Tommy Mitchell black-and-gold floral-relief side tables provides a shiny ‘80s flair. Aside from a few specific items, most of the furnishings Bikoff selected are vintage—an apropos choice for a home that harkens back to the theatricality of the past. “Everything made nowadays comes from some kind of inspiration,” she says. “So if you just work a little harder to source these things, you can get the real deal.”