In a Jenga tournament of colossal size, architecture and design firm Workshop/APD converted a series of turn-of-the-century artists’ studios on New York’s Upper West Side into a comfortable home for a family of five. Their brief was simple: to create an engaging house for the family with spaces to retreat and to entertain in equal measure. The space the firm started out with, however, was not so simple.
“The building was broken into these very small individual studios when it was built. The apartment itself was really a series of two or three spaces that had been very poorly combined over the years,” says designer Andrew Kotchen, one half of Workshop/APD, which he founded in 1999 with his partner, Matt Berman. “But when you walk into an atypical apartment like that in this city, your creative juices start flowing!”
The challenges of the towering triplex were countless, but through several architectural interventions, creative problem solving, and well-deployed tricks of the eye, Kotchen and his team were able to convert what was once the creative domain of artistic strangers a century ago into a vertically rollicking family home in the sky.
“You feel very intrigued as you walk through the apartment,” shares Kotchen. “Every turn you take is a wow moment. You are continually questioning how this apartment exists.” The wows ascend from the main entrance (designed for visitors and guests, the family typically enters through a separate foyer) with its floating Simon Johns console over a slatted wall that soars upward in tandem with a spiral staircase to the top of a turret that now houses a play space for the whole family—and twin rock-climbing walls.
The kitchen, on the second floor, is a painting in light wood and concrete. “For every project we do, we build material palettes for the whole structure before construction begins,” shares Kotchen. Color, as well as the materials, is carried over into the muted dining area, with its custom dining table (extendable to meet the entertaining brief, of course) and gray and gold Verpan dining chairs. A custom plum-hued Saerom Yoon acrylic console table, sourced through 1stDibs, separates the dining area from the family room and serves as the exclamation point in an otherwise subdued space. “Each space has that one moment that saturates the room with color,” says the designer, “and everything steps back from that.”
Other bursts of color and texture appear in the five and a half bathrooms in the house (“Every bathroom has a color in it!” says Kotchen), and again in a turquoise cabinet and chair in a second-floor work area and in a custom double-sided teal sofa rooting the living room’s center. “Our favorite custom piece in here is the living room sofa,” says Kotchen of the cushy ocean-hued sectional. “It has form, it has shape, it uses great materials, it’s something we love, and it carries the apartment.” All other details throughout the home radiate out from these tonal interjections. “A lot of our work does not have enough color in it, so in this project we wanted to push for that,” says the designer. These shades, strategically placed throughout the house contribute to a sense of aesthetic continuity, without overcomplicating things or distracting from the central goal—comfort and fun.