Inside a Designer’s Sophisticated Upper West Side Apartment

How excited can you get over a hallway? For interior decorator Sarah Lederman, whose entryway is a huge part (both literally and practically) of her Manhattan apartment, the answer is a lot. “It’s where my kids scoot up and down, have relay races… it’s where I can host a large dinner party and store the stroller and the dog’s leashes,” says the mom-of-two of the Upper West Side space she shares with husband Evan and their Goldendoodle, Ziggy. 

The area commands so much precious real estate that everyone from Lederman’s own mom to her architect suggested re-configuring it to open out the apartment’s footprint, but the segregation of the dining room, sitting room and three bedrooms is exactly what appealed to the designer about the pre-war, Emery Roth-designed building. “I like to live in rooms, not one big lofty space,” she shares. So, she accessorized the area with a petite, vintage slip-covered sofa that is perfect for her daughters, Gemma (5) and Isabel (2), to sit on while they put on their shoes (which are cleverly stored on a slide-out tray underneath), and a shallow console table. 

traditional living room

Pointing Paint, Farrow & Ball; Belgian Classic Roll Arm Three-Seat-Cushion Sofa, RH; Swivel Chair, Lee Industries; Farrah Fabric, Tulu Textiles; Vintage Coffee Table; Minna and Amboseli Throw Pillows, Nzuri Textiles; Samode Saffron Linen Cushion, Water G; Lamps, Ruby Beets; Wall Art by RF Alvarez, Dan Lederman, Stephen Lavis, and Andrew Zimmerman
TV cabinet

Lederman, who had previously rented across the city, squashed expectations further by leaning into the bones of the apartment and adding her own flair to it, rather than embarking on a textbook modernization. This meant embracing the property’s characterful paneling in the sitting room, which she covered in distinctive chalky paint (she lucked-out with the existing built-ins, which feature bi-fold doors to hide the TV). She then mixed in traditional roll-arm sofa with mid-century pieces she’s owned for years, like the travertine coffee table and Danish accent chairs, along with newly-acquired contemporary art from Sears-Peyton Gallery. “If you have a classic base, then I feel like you can layer anything in,” she says of her approach to decorating. 

Excited to have a dining room for the first time, Lederman’s exposure to countless wallcoverings and fabrics for her day-job meant that “off the bat, I knew this was going to be my moment to do something bold” she says. Cue a busy, English garden-style wallpaper, juxtaposed with colorful modern artworks. “That balance of the traditional with a surprising modern twist is just very me,” she says. 

The spots requiring more than a considered paint and paper job were the bathrooms, which were original to the almost century-old apartment. The girls’ space had to multitask as a guest powder room, “so I had to figure out how to create a jewel-box moment while meeting the needs of my kids,” explains Lederman. Her solution? Dimmable wall sconces for ambient lighting when friends come over, and ingeniously, a textured shower curtain to hide their multitude of plastic bath toys. Custom tabarka tiles, unlacquered brass fixtures, and travertine stone make the space feel suitably luxe, while appealing to a child’s sensibility. “My daughters love that they have this flowery bathroom of their own,” says Lederman.

In the primary suite, it was out with the tub (as the couple almost never take bubble baths), and in with a double shower, complete with a wide bench. Lederman continued the use of travertine over marble for its warmth and to create a hammam-like feel. “I wanted it to feel very zen,” she suggests. Drawn to Fireclay’s fishscale tile, she settled on three neutral tones and used a computer programme to randomize the colors so that there are no repetitive clusters. “I suppose you could say it is perfectly randomized,” she laughs. 

wood bed frame

New White Paint, Farrow & Ball; Chiselhurst Bed, Lawson-Fenning; Conrad Nightstands, Made Goods; Cane Drum Stool, Jayson Home; Bedding, Jeanette Farrier; Armchair, Anthropologie; Custom Lamps, Humble Matter; Linen Box Quilt, Parachute; Accent Pillow, Pat McGann; Custom Rug, Temple Studio; Beatrice Bouquet Fabric, Schumacher.
wood dowel bed freame

Lederman’s breezy bedroom continues the serene feel and features her favorite piece of furniture: a wavy-edged dresser. A trophy piece she’d lusted after for years (and acquired previously for clients to the tune of thousands of dollars on 1stdibs), it finally landed in her lap thanks to an eBay alert. Although it was in poor condition when it shipped from the Midwest, it was nothing her restorer couldn’t fix. “I look everywhere (Charish, second-hand stores, I’ve even found things on the Dixie Highway)…everything eventually comes up,” says Lederman. Her bedside lamps are also evidence of her collaborative spirit: months of admiring Brooklyn-based John Born’s ceramics (aka @humblematter) on Instagram inspired her to reach out to see if he could make a pair of bases in his signature plastery, sculptural style. “He’d never made lamps before, but he ran with it,” says Lederman, who sent him references by Alberto Giacometti and had them wired by a specialist in the city. “They soften the room and act like a piece of art,” she adds.

The girls’ bedrooms are Lederman’s “wheelhouse”; the picture moldings in Gemma’s room act as playful frames for a gingham wallpaper. It’s used as a playroom by her little sister Isabel, whose own dwelling is much smaller but scores just as highly on the design front: blighted with steam pipes, niches and air vents, Lederman covered every surface in a scenic wallpaper to create a Where the Wild Things Are setting that even Gemma, despite her large room, is envious of. Both girls have toys and books curated onto Plexiglass ledges and cubbyholes, so as not to break up the beautiful wall coverings their mom painstakingly sourced. This home may look grown-up, but playtime spills out to everywhere, including the gem of a hallway. “Nothing is off limits,” says Lederman. “We’re not afraid to let our kids romp throughout the apartment.” 

The Goods

My go-to local vintage shops: Gerald Bland and Housing Works

My favorite local home store: CÔTE À COAST (for baskets), il Buco Vita (for kitchenware), KRB (for decor)

Where I buy plants: Foliage Garden

The decor site I’ve bookmarked: My own home decor site, launching soon!

My biggest splurge: the pleated silk Sari lampshades

My biggest save: The vintage Edmond Spence dresser I sourced on eBay

Who to Know

I loved working with: My upholsterer, Luther Quintana

The nicest contractor I’ve ever met: All Dimension Construction

Pristine painter: Robert Star

Genius landscaper: Sawyer Berson

Meticulous wallpaper installer: Amir Hasan

Other highly recommended craftspeople: Temple Studio (for custom rugs), decorative painter Frank Reijnen, and architect Studio Lyon Szot

The one thing I wish I knew before renovating: Be skeptical of the lowest bid. A quality contractor will be realistic about the budget it will truly take to complete the job rather than submitting a more appealing number.

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