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You know you're a New Yorker when you indulge in one of the city's favorite pastimes: wondering what other people's beautiful apartments, lofts and townhouses are like. Breaking and entering's illegal, but in the book Living in Style: New York, editor Vanessa von Bismarck gives you a peek into the most original, creative and color-packed homes in these five boroughs.
Born in Hamburg, von Bismarck first worked in London as a sugar trader before crossing the Atlantic and switching gears from commodities to fashion and luxury goods. As co-founder of the PR and branding agency BPCM, von Bismarck oversees media and brand strategy for clients including fashion brands Turnbull & Asser, Preen, Irene Neuwirth, Wes Gordon and Longchamp.
Here, von Bismarck—who lives in Chelsea with her husband, healthcare entrepreneur Maximilian Weiner, and two young sons—explains why New Yorkers love bright furniture and dark walls, the key to surviving a renovation, and what you should use as your decorating mantra.
How do you recreate a stylish interior on a budget?
You can find wonderful things in antique markets. We went to [antiques show] Brimfield and found a couple of pieces. I found an amazing upholsterer, thanks to New York magazine’s design issue, to work with us. Updating pieces is a great option.
What are the current trends in wall color?
There were a lot of dark grey or dark blue walls. Partly for the artwork or a statement piece like a gold rim mirror, and partly because it can make the space feel bigger. There is a lot of greige [a blend of beige and grey], which has replaced off white.
How did you choose the homes featured in the book?
My objective always was to find an apartment where you have incredible pieces that define a room and then you have the personality that goes into it in fabrics or color. For example, with interior designer Miles Redd, his apartment is very sumptuous and vibrant, but not all new and shiny, and that I feel is a fabulous statement.
Where do you live?
We are renovating [a townhouse] so we are living in [the pre-war Chelsea co-op] London Terrace right now and hopefully will move into our home in September. The basement apartment we will rent out, and we are converting the rest of the house, which was all single apartments, into one townhouse with six bedrooms.
Best advice for those about to begin a reno?
Hire a great contractor. A huge part of the renovation will be working with your contractor, so find someone you connect with and trust. It makes all the difference.
How would you describe the esthetic you're trying to create?
I am not using a designer, but I am working with my friend [designer] Antony Todd, he’s really my unofficial designer! The tone will be eclectic. So, one room will be British interior designer David Hicks-inspired. There will be Moroccan influences in another room. The kitchen will have olive green counters, that’s where the pop of color will be there.
Anything special for your children?
I was trying to find something cool and modular for them--as they love building castles out of cushions--and found TAT-Tris, which looks like pieces for Tetris that you can build into a sofa, or a castle, or anything their imaginations can create.
You have an unlimited budget. What is your fantasy purchase for your home?
Carlo de Carli chairs, which I think are amazing. I love their clean fine lines, and they would work well in my dining room setting.
Your pick for best restaurant in Chelsea?
Where do you like to hunt for furniture and décor?