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Transforming a 1980s Time Capsule

Interior designer Leyden Lewis turned a dated apartment in a midtown high-rise into a livable modern gallery.

Photo: Pratya Jankong
Photo: Pratya Jankong

Interior designer and artist Leyden Lewis’s clients, a couple who had purchased a pied-à-terre in a high-rise in midtown Manhattan, appreciated the building’s amenities but wanted a full makeover for the apartment, which hadn’t been touched in 30 years. “We walked in there,” Lewis says, “and it was a 1980s peach hell: peach carpeting, peach silk. We ripped out all that stuff down to the bone.” His clients, who are art collectors, wanted the space to have the openness of a downtown loft — and every wall to be able to accommodate art. Lewis, pictured here, stands at the nexus of the space: the kitchen, the dining area, and the entry of the study. The back-painted glass-paneled cube, with full-height matte-lacquer sliding doors that open to the kitchen, is the anchor of the space. The original floors were replaced with reclaimed oak herringbone that runs throughout the apartment, including the bathrooms. Lewis, who is a professor at the New York School of Interior Design and Parsons, is a founding member of the Black Artists and Designers Guild and is currently working with architect Nina Cooke John on designing a Concept House that reimagines the narrative for Black families at home.

The living room. Photo: Pratya Jankong

Above, a view of the living room toward the bedroom, where Lewis designed a dark tobacco wall with a glass clerestory that divides the room while still allowing light to filter in. The collage on the wall is by artist William Kentridge. “They moved in with a lot of big modernist pieces,” Lewis says, referring to the sculptural sofa and banana-colored Eames lounge chair, “which ended up complimenting the interior architecture well.” The diptych watermelon painting and the sculpture of the fruit bowl in bronze are by an artist friend of the owners, the late Ana Mercedes Hoyos.

This view of the living room shows the glass-paneled cube that contains the kitchen. The four framed prints on the back wall are by Ana Mercedes Hoyos. “The clients requested that the Backenzahn stools should act as both a coffee table and a pedestal for art,” Lewis notes. Photo: Pratya Jankong
A view of the living-room gallery as it continues toward the study, where a shell-shaped heirloom vanity seat from the 1940s and dining chairs by Phillippe Starck sit beneath a wall-mounted Potence lamp by Jean Prouvé for Vitra. Photo: Pratya Jankong
Lewis custom-designed the library coffee table in front of a Le Corbusier LC2 Petit Modele three-seat sofa in gray leather. The framed photograph above is by Thomas Ruff. One of the Eames Aluminum Group chairs in white is placed in front of the custom cantilevered desk with a retractable glass surface that Lewis designed. Photo: Pratya Jankong
The bedroom. Photo: Pratya Jankong

Of the serene bedroom, Lewis says: “The custom millwork adds traditional storage and serves as a night table with a retractable surface that visually relieves the floor space.” The custom linen bedcover is from Lori Weitzner’s Reverie Collection, a collaboration with artist Lisa Hunt. Two Roni Horn “Clown-Mirrors” hang above the bed. Lewis installed four photographs by Pieter Hugo on the movable walls he designed to create easily accessible storage. He added Tolomeo Mega table lamps and installed architectural wall-washing lighting from Modulightor in the ceiling.

A detail of a bedroom window (with an antique horse sculpture) shows a corner of the custom wall and its glass clerestory. The bedroom side of the wall holds storage and a flat-screen TV. Photo: Pratya Jankong
The kitchen. Photo: Pratya Jankong

“The custom-designed kitchen is from Poggenpohl — the back-painted glass walls perfectly complement the matte rustic reclaimed floor,” Lewis says. Ingo Maurer’s two “Canned” hanging lamps are a nod to Pop artist Andy Warhol. “Everything was reconfigured in the apartment,” Lewis says. “The reclaimed floor is the one thing that carries the language of the floors in the old cast-iron buildings. It gives the space a historical foundation.”

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Transforming a 1980s Time Capsule