great rooms

May I Come In?

A library of some of my favorite places.

Wendy Goodman’s first design story for New York from 1989.
Wendy Goodman’s first design story for New York from 1989. Photo: Edward Addeo
Wendy Goodman’s first design story for New York from 1989.
Wendy Goodman’s first design story for New York from 1989. Photo: Edward Addeo

The very first design story I ever did for the magazine was in 1989, while still a fashion editor. It had taken me a year to muster up the nerve to ask New York Magazine’s then editor-in-chief, Ed Kosner, if I could do a story that wasn’t a fashion feature. I had always been intrigued by the little carriage house opposite Cartier on East 52nd street that housed the restaurant La Grenouille, having enjoyed many luncheons there as the guest of various fashion designers. But, I always wondered, what was the story of this building? This is the essence of Design Hunting: a very polite snoopiness. After all, you have to be invited into someone’s sanctum. The story of the artist, Bernard Lamotte — who I was to discover had at one time lived upstairs — and the story behind this little building, changed my life and career forever. Now that Design Hunting is expanding digitally here at Curbed, we’ve collected some of my favorite stories from the past here for you to peruse. Enjoy — and come back often; we’ll be adding more to this compilation going forward.

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Apartments | Lofts and Artists’ Studios | Townhouses | Out-of-Town Houses

Apartments

Cindy Adams’s Boldfaced Park Avenue Penthouse

Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson

Where Gossip Never Sleeps, 2019
The gossip columnist, who has been a reigning star at the New York Post for decades, is alternately a holy terror and Princess Charming, and you never know whom you will be meeting. I knew her postwar Park Avenue penthouse apartment had belonged to the late tobacco heiress Doris Duke, and that one of my heroes, L.A. designer and fantasist Tony Duquette, had had a hand in decorating it. I also knew that the bathroom he had done for her, complete with embellished tub, was now her office and that she had kept the tub as a receptacle for papers. I had to get in to do a story. Her first words to our photographer, the ever courtly and always charming, Stephen Kent Johnson, were something to the effect that if she didn’t like his portrait of her she could ruin his career. Or maybe it was that she would ruin his career. In any case, not only did she like her portrait, but she even let us return to photograph her bedroom when I realized that this had to be part of the story, but not until after some pretty scary phone calls.
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Artist Katie Stout’s Fort Greene Home

Photo: Katie Stout

Getting by With a Little Art From Your Friends, 2020
I must have gone out to visit Katie in her old apartment in Brooklyn two or three times to see if she was ready for a story, but with each visit Katie had something more to finish. And so I waited and vowed to return. Then Katie met Jeff and they got married and settled down in their new apartment in Fort Greene. It was another wait, as there was so much to do vis à vis the artwork being made by both Katie and her friends. I am patient, and persistent, because sometimes the wait is months and sometimes even a year. In this case Katie and Jeff were finally ready, and a date had been set for photography, and then COVID hit and no one could go anywhere, but I had a plan: Katie and Jeff could photograph their own space as they saw fit. It was true to the times, and the story and shoot worked out perfectly.
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An Apartment Covered in Masking Tape

Photo: Dean Kaufman

Sylvia Heisel and Scott Taylor’s Apartment, 2011
When I had the idea to do an issue devoted to extreme interiors I realized that I had better be able to back up the theme with some really outrageous projects, nothing even vaguely normal. I was over the moon to start my scouting adventure with the apartment of fashion designer Sylvia Heisel and her husband, Scott Taylor. I had heard that it was covered in tape, and that the designer, Doug Meyer had worked on the idea and installation with the couple. I can’t put into words the experience of seeing the front door open into a room completely, and I mean floor, walls, and ceiling, even the window, covered in black masking tape, and that was only the beginning. I knew I had to really scout far and wide to find projects that could equal this in its fascinating extremism.
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A Meticulous, Book-Filled Park Slope Floor-Through

Photo: Thomas Loof

Mark Haldeman and James Aguiar’s Park Slope Apartment, 2013
I feel like Boswell to Mark and James’s Johnson, as it seems as if I have written about every room these two brilliant aesthetes have lived in since the day I met them. I did a story on their floor-through in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in 2013, and then again in 2017 after they had moved into a very similar apartment, only slightly smaller. But the design impact is always enormous and meticulously thought out, and their library is a room I would like to be locked away in for a good year so I could absorb every single design book they have collected over decades.
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Amy Sedaris Decorated Her Apartment ‘As If I Owned a Child’

Photo: Dean Kaufman

Amy Sedaris’s Apartment, 2011
I owe my introduction to Amy Sedaris entirely to Todd Oldham who is a very close pal of Amy’s and beyond generous with his time and contacts. I wanted to meet Amy in the worst way, I mean, who doesn’t? I also dreamed to feature her apartment in our May 11, 2011, Extreme Décor issue. Todd made it happen. I arrived with photographer Dean Kaufman, and met Amy and her pet bunny, who of course had run of the house. I asked Amy if she would write her story and she did. The opening spread has a pull quote that reads, “I decorate as if I owned a child.”
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A Harlem Prewar Apartment Stripped to Its Original State

Photo: Annie Schlechter

Lana Turner’s Harlem Apartment, 2018
Historian, activist, and Harlem raconteur Michael Henry Adams introduced me to the marvelous Lana Turner who is hard to define through conventional titles. Lana is an ace ballroom and swing dancer with a wardrobe to match stored in her prewar apartment in Harlem. Lana is also a real-estate broker, but above all she is an artist with myriad talents including designing and making hats. Her collection of hats, gloves and dresses could fill a small museum. Lana is always working on her apartment and over the years of visiting her there, it’s always different and always wonderful.
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Chloë Sevigny’s ‘Womblike’ East Village Apartment

Photo: Francois Dischinger

Chloë Sevigny’s Co-op, April 2012
Right from the start I had wanted to do a design issue called “Hollywood in New York,” as so many stars had homes in the city, and let’s admit it, I thought it would be a newsstand winner. I met the design maverick David Cafiero through editor-in-chief Adam Moss. I knew that David had done the East Village apartment of Chloë Sevigny, one of my heroines, hence the campaign began to get the scoop on new work he had done for her there. In the end, Chloe was the cover of the issue, naked, having breakfast in bed. I took great pains find the perfect tray, accessories, and food, which consisted of a half grapefruit, topped off with a berry — what else would a movie star eat?
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A Williamsburg Apartment for Neo-Victorians

Photo: The Selby

Anthony Malat and Jamie Isaia’s Williamsburg Apartment, 2010
Our biannual design issues were always themed, and that was a fun challenge as I had to find not one, but many great projects that supported the theme I dreamed up that spoke to what was happening out in the world of interiors in the city at that moment. One thing that is key in this job is to get out and leave no stone unturned and talk to many different people to glean what is going on. I have had the great fortune to know Jeffrey Miller — actually there are two beloved Jeffrey Millers in my life — and this Jeffrey, whom I met many moons ago when he was an editor and stylist at House & Garden, gave me the heads-up about two friends of his, Jamie Isaia and Anthony Malat. My theme was the New Old, and their apartment was a Victorian throwback if ever there was one. I am indebted to Jeffrey for this story, and much, much more.
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An East Village Apartment Where the Owner’s Grandmother Once Lived

Photo: Francois Dischinger

Michael Reynolds and Eric Hoffman’s East Village Apartment, 2013
I had the idea to do a design issue devoted to family, and how one’s aesthetic is honed, consciously or not, by the memories of our parents and the influences growing up. I became totally obsessed by Michael Reynolds and his partner, Eric Hoffman’s apartment, which Michael told me had been his grandparent’s apartment when he was growing up. This was the key story for the issue. Michael and Eric had not changed the architecture at all of the tenement railroad apartment since the days of his grandparents, and yet they had decorated the rooms with fantastic finds from galleries including R & Co. (then called R 20th Century) and Marlborough Gallery. Michael is the top stylist in all the land and knows everyone and everything about design so no surprise that each and every piece in their apartment was something extraordinary. I was on pins and needles for while as, needless to say, every magazine wanted this story, but in the end, New York won out, and the apartment landed on the cover.
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A Little Italy Hanging Garden: Honey, It’s Time to Mow the Roof

Photo: Gregory Goode

Chris and Lisa Goode’s Little Italy Rooftop Garden, 2008
In 2007, little did I know that the ax was about to fall at House & Garden as I went on my way merrily scouting what I felt was one of the all time most fantastic stories I had ever come upon. Chris and Lisa Goode had a farm on the top of a building in Little Italy. I suppose you could also call it a penthouse on two levels as architect Andrew Berman had designed a masterpiece of understated beauty. But then Chris and Lisa added their genius in the landscaping and green roof on a third level complete with chickens and a hen house. I had hit the design jackpot except that in the flash of an eye, House & Garden was shut down. Fast forward a year later when I was miraculously back at New York Magazine and doing what I love the most, and eureka, I thought about Chris and Lisa’s green kingdom in the sky, and well, it wasn’t a slam dunk, that’s all I can say. It took a bit of convincing for Lisa especially, but in the end it was a cover story, and can I ever stress enough that nothing ventured, nothing gained is what I live by. Never accept no for an answer!
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A Curator’s Well-Curated West Village Apartment

Photo: Annie Schlechter

Pierre Apraxine’s West Village Apartment, 2020
Photographer Annie Schlechter sometimes sends me projects she thinks will be a fit for the magazine having photographed so many wonderful stories throughout the years. When she sent me the photographs she had taken of art historian Pierre Apraxine’s apartment, I did that awful thing of putting them in a folder, which I must confess I forgot about as so much was on deadline at the time. Annie followed up some weeks later and asked if I hadn’t wanted this story? I then opened up Annie’s beautiful photographs of what was to become one of the most elegant, understated, and wonderful stories we have ever featured.
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Lofts and Artists Studios

The Williamsburg Loft Where the Future Is Perfected

Photo: Dean Kaufman

David Alhadeff’s Brooklyn Loft, 2009
David Alhadeff, who started the super cool design store the Future Perfect, is one smart, savvy guy, and I along with everyone else wanted to tell his story at home. He had an all-pink bedroom in this particular apartment in a warehouse in Brooklyn and I was totally enthralled by every detail of what he had done to this space, including what he kept in his freezer where I discovered a mama and baby polar bear just chilling, and that was all.
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An Artist’s Live-Work Space in a Onetime Garage in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn

Photo: Jason Schmidt/New York Magazine

Leonardo Drew’s Studio, 2018
I was very excited taking the subway out to Cypress Hills to meet artist Leonardo Drew, who I had been told by his gallerist, Brent Sikkema of Sikkema Jenkins, lived and worked in a converted garage. I was scouting for our special design issue themed on artists spaces in April, 2018, and at the start of every issue I always worried that I might not find special enough projects. But with Leonardo Drew I knew I was in for a great, fun surprise, or at least that was my hope. I arrived at the façade of his garage, still looking like a garage from the street, but once Leonardo opened the door and led me back through a little warren of rooms into his epic studio space, I couldn’t contain myself and wanted to cry. It was a massive gift to discover his electrifying world unlike anything I had ever seen. And then after seeing his studio space and asking if I could see where he actually lived he took me upstairs where another completely different experience was revealed. I took the subway back to the office walking on air. On days like that it felt like you had captured a piece of the world, the best part of it, and put it in your pocket.
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An Airy Loft Inside a Former Church in Jersey City

Photo: Jacob Snavely

Paul Melo and Tom Walko’s Condo, 2020
Sometimes you get very lucky and that is exactly how I was able to feature the extraordinary home of designers, Paul Melo and Tom Walko in Jersey City. Interior designer Aamir Khandwala was kind enough to contact me after he had gone to dinner at Paul and Tom’s new apartment in a converted church. Aamir has been a friend and colleague long enough to know that I would have flown to the moon and back for this story, and so he contacted me, and I feel very grateful and lucky that he did.
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A Community of Artists in a Former Paper-Clip Factory in the Bronx

Photo: Jason Schmidt

My Studio in the Bronx, 2020
This started out as one story and morphed into another after I showed our editor-in-chief, David Haskell, and photography director Jody Quon scouting pictures of entrepreneur Andrew Daines’s studio in an old paper- clip factory building in the Bronx, mentioning that there were dozens of wonderful artists also in that building. Thanks to Andrew I met his studio neighbor, Firelei Baez, and then artist Judy Mannarino, who Andrew said was key to meeting other artists. Thanks to both Andrew and Judy I knocked on doors and ended up featuring 13 artists in our February 17, 2020 issue.
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A Year in a Loft in Bushwick

Photo: Kelly Marshall

Kelly Marshall’s Brooklyn Loft, 2020
Pre-pandemic, one of the joys of my work was being out and about going to any number of art and design happenings in the city. It was during one of these, an event for the Black Designer and Artists Guild founded by artist Malene Barnett, that I met photographer Kelly Marshall. I loved her work and shortly after we did a shoot together on interior designer Rayman Boozer’s loft. Then the lockdown came and going out to scout — much less going on location — was not an option. I thought we would ask people to photograph their own spaces but that is not so easy, as it takes a very keen eye to get interiors right, but I had been talking to Kelly about her own space, and now was the time to do it. It was a joy to receive her photographs along with the stories of her artwork and collections.
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A Former East Village School With an Egyptian Wing

Photo: Annie Schlechter

Izhar Patkin East Village Loft, 2019
I have known Izhar for many years meeting him through my friend, photographer Michael James O’Brien, when he and a group of friends, including Izhar, chipped in and bought an old-school house in the East Village in 1994. Izhar only wanted to live on the ground floor and proceeded to create a series of wondrous rooms that felt more like traveling through a small village than entering an urban dwelling. He had a courtyard and off of that a maze of completely different environments that changed with his own and various friend’s art. Years ago there was a Moroccan restaurant in the building called Chez Es Saada and the exotic atmosphere seeped into every nook and cranny throughout. I had always wanted to do a story on Izhar’s incredible space but he is an exacting man and somehow the timing was not right, that is until as luck would have it, I approached Izhar again for the art issue in 2018 and my timing was exactly right! Izhar announced that he and his friend, artist Scooter LaForge, had just repainted the entire place, and no one had seen it yet, and that was music to my ears.
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Townhouses

A Jeweler’s Grand Duplex in a Stanford White-Designed Mansion

Photo: Andrew Bordwin

Kenneth Jay Lane’s Home, 2002
KJL, as he was known, designed costume jewelry for very rich clientele who took great pride in wearing his pieces along with their real baubles. He ruled supreme over New York City society in the days when Diana Vreeland held court in her Park Avenue apartment drenched in red fabric to create what she called “a garden in hell.” Lane’s own apartment on Park Avenue was in a former mansion designed by Stanford White and it was the most authentically opulent and cozy apartment in the city. He hosted luncheon and dinner parties inviting princes and princesses, real ones, and would often say mean things about former guests in his joking but truthful way. You always left after one of those gatherings knowing you’d be fodder for the next one. Photographer Andrew Bordwin took the most ravishing photographs of one of my favorite interiors of all time because it wasn’t just beautiful, it was lived in and loved.
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A Brooklyn Home That Moves From One Stylish Family Member to the Next

Photo: Floto+Warner

Delia Kenza’s House, 2017
It was after a talk I did at ABC Carpet and Home with Vicente Wolf and Marianne Williamson — who for some reason, well, let’s just say, I didn’t exactly hit it off with from the get-go, and couldn’t seem to find common ground with, hard as I tried during our conversation. So I was relieved when it was over and happy to greet friends in the audience when all of a sudden Delia Kenza appeared in front of me, and I felt as if I was meeting a long-lost friend. Delia mentioned that she was a designer. I asked her to show me her work, then and there on her iPhone. It was not much later that I appeared on her doorstep, photographer in tow, to do a story.
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Out-of-Town Houses

Whoopi Goldberg’s Elizabeth Taylor-Inspired Mansion in New Jersey

Photo: Francois Dischinger

Whoopi Goldberg’s New Jersey Mansion, 2012
How could we do an issue devoted to Hollywood in New York without the legendary, beloved Whoopi Goldberg? We couldn’t is the answer; it took a bit of negotiating, but unlike other negotiations for this issue, her tribe of protectors and negotiators were all lovely. I was nervous, as one is with people they hero worship, so when it came time for Whoopi’s portrait and photographer Francois Dischinger asked her to put on a bathrobe and stand in her bathroom, I wanted to be swallowed up by a hole in the floor. I was horrified, and thought that the divine legend would tell us to shut down the shoot and go home. But no, she couldn’t have been nicer and obviously thought it was funny, as this is a lady who doesn’t suffer fools, as we know having watched her for years on The View. She did the interview in her bathrobe in her marvelous living room chockablock with collected treasures that gave her Georgian Colonial home a feeling of cozy, lived-in elegance.
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May I Come In?