Editor-Tested: How I Found the Perfect Colors for My N.Y.C. Apartment

As a design writer, I seek out, explore, record—and, in some extreme cases, pledge to memory—the most transcendent fabrics, tiles, and furniture that I encounter in my travels through showrooms and private homes. They are all fodder for a story or photo shoot. Most recently, however, I've embarked on a renovation of my West Village apartment where I live with my husband and our 2-year-old daughter. We had the great fortune (and N.Y.C. fantasy-come-true) of buying the one-bedroom place next door and breaking down a wall. It's a gut renovation, and I've re-imagined every aspect of the space, from the floor colors to the kitchen and bathrooms. Along the way, I've been able to incorporate my all-time favorite finds and resources, and the newest and most tantalizing products and designs. Follow along with me as I describe the ins-and-outs of our renovation and the aesthetic decisions that I've made along with the way. Happy reading!

How to Decorate Lead
Photo: Courtesy

How do you join two one-bedroom apartments and have it feel like one continuous space? In our 1926 building, the rooms are charming and somewhat eccentric. Our architect, Simon Arnold of Arnold Architecture, showed us three different layouts and one was clearly the winner. With the plan we’ve ended up going with, only a single wall would have to be removed. The space that was our living room for so many years would become a master bedroom, and the adjoining kitchen would be transformed into a master bathroom. Our new kitchen would be in the recently acquired space, and expanded greatly from what was already there. And the bathrooms? Well now there would be three. Yep, I was living the dream.

One way of connecting the spaces was through color. Now, if you count European home magazines as one of your guilty, undeniable pleasures, then you have probably heard of the English paint company Farrow and Ball. I’ve been writing about them for years, and the depth and nuance of their palettes are truly special. When you walk into a room and immediately wonder, what is this divine color? well then you have probably entered a Farrow and Ball-painted space. My fantasy with this apartment was to be adventuresome with the choice of hues, but still have the rooms hang together as one. I knew that dark greens and deep blues would be the anchoring tones—they make me and my husband happiest, and to be honest, he was willing to let me take some risks, and for this I am forever grateful. The main living and dining areas would be fairly neutral, an interplay of varying shades of white.

How to Decorate 1
Joshua Kessler

The kitchen cabinets and entryway a deep, almost-black navy called Hague Blue. In the bathrooms, greens would dominate, and one in particular called Chappell Green (except in my daughter’s area, where a pale rosy tone called Pink Ground was the theme). With all of these ideas in mind, I invited a color consultant, Erica Silberman, who works out of Farrow and Ball’s Flatiron showroom to come with her book of color swatches and assess my basic choices, then help me select the exact paints that would work best in each space.

How to Decorate 2
Joshua Kessler

She was incredibly knowledgeable, reeling off the pigment names in each of the whites I was considering, assessing the light (northern throughout) and generally helping to make the best choices. I would highly suggest building the oh-so-worth-it expense of a visit from a knowledgeable color consultant into your budget if you can. It helps avoid mistakes down the road which are far more costly. Another option is to get your hands on their newest book called How to Decorate ($26; amazon.com) which is a veritable handbook on how to make color decisions for your home. I was riveted, and found it extremely helpful.

Related Articles