CeCe Barfield Thompson’s latest project is proof that good things come to those who wait. The New York-based designer was hired to update a spacious Manhattan apartment in late 2019—and even started the demolition before the global pandemic touched down in the Big Apple. So, when the shelter-in-place finally order went into effect, she was tasked with the unique challenge of keeping the design momentum alive while adjusting to an indefinitely delayed timeline.
“During Covid-19, we really made it all about the beautiful schemes and furniture, and we were able to have extra time to find those special, one-of-a-kind pieces,” Barfield Thompson explains. “I really tried to focus on the joyful parts of the project to keep [the clients] engaged, excited, and organized so that the second we were able to get going again, we were ready.”
Once the time was right, Barfield Thompson wasted no time transforming this classic seven apartment. Nestled on Park Avenue, the three-and-a-half bed, two-and-a-half bath belongs to a family of four, so it was important to create a home that was both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Though much of the home’s original footprint remained the same—Barfield Thompson notes that traditional, sectioned-off rooms are a great pairing for young families—she combined the Butler’s pantry and kitchen to create a larger eat-in space and reimagined the staff’s room into a well-appointed study.
As for the design? It was all about mastering the balance. “They wanted a comfortable, family [space] based in traditional design, but had a modern, [pragmatic] spirit,” Barfield Thompson explains. “We introduced some patterns—but sparingly—and used a lot of really bright, happy colors.” Barfield Thompson made a statement while maximizing a relatively small footprint, complete with strategic storage, contemporary art, and an abundance of antiques.
“You really learn working on these family apartments in urban places because you’re demanding a lot of the space,” she shares. “It’s like putting together a puzzle; when executed well, it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Tour the entire apartment below.
With two young children living under one roof, it was important that the clients’ living room was well-equipped for both playdates and adult parties. To master the balance, Barfield Thompson employed multipurpose decor—the ottoman pulls double duty with a discreet storage area—and indoor-outdoor fabrics whenever possible. Another must? An area that was chic, yet comfortable.
“All the upholstery is deep and comfortable to sit in. There are two sofas so the family can watch television,” she shares. “To dress up the space, we used beautiful antique side tables, lamps, and art, [which really] elevated it to make it feel more formal,” Barfield Thompson adds. “When all of these elements come together, it really made this a multipurpose room that has a lot of style, but is very practical at the end of the day.”
Wallpaper: Gracie Papier. Carpet: Manhattan Carpet. Curtains: Cowtan & Tout. Curtain Tape: Houles. Curtain Hardware: Morgik. Sofa: custom by Fine Arts Furniture in a C&C Milano Fabric with a Samuel & Sons fringe. Painting: Sarah Awad. Lamps: Objets Plus. Sofa Side Tables: antique. Chairs: custom by Fine Arts Furniture in a Lee Jofa fabric. Ottoman: custom by Fine Arts Furniture in George Spencer fabric. Ottoman tray: Land of Belle. Settee: custom settee in George Spencer fabric. Sconces: Urban Electric Co. Mirror and chairs by fireplace: antique. Mantle accessories: Frances Palmer Tulipieres. Bookcase lights: Visual Comfort Lighting. Deer Sculpture: Comer & Co.
“We really wanted to have a classic kitchen,” Barfield Thompson says of the newly renovated area. “There’s so much color in the other parts of the apartment, but this was sort of a palate cleanser.” But just because this kitchen boasts a crisp white, doesn’t mean it’s sterile. Woven stools from Serena & Lily and a ceiling light from Visual Comfort add warmth, while the Walton Ford etching that hangs over the sink brings some texture to the sleek backsplash.
Millwork: Bilota. Ceiling light: Visual Comfort. Stools: Serena & Lily. Curtain: Soane. Art: Walton Ford. Tile: Dal Tile.
Dining Room and Library
Though this apartment is large by Manhattan standards, it was still important to think strategically about every square foot. To make the most of this space, Barfield Thompson merged the dining room and library into one room. Unlike the rest of the home—which features a mélange of prints and smile-inducing pigments—she veered to the dark side of the color wheel.
“It’s more of a nighttime room,” the designer says. “This room had the least sun exposure in the apartment and by painting it a dark color, that contrast actually helps to make the space feel lighter.”
Opulent touches such as a tufted banquette, antique English Regency chairs, and an ancestral portrait of the client’s family round out the room, deftly bridging the gap between business and pleasure.
Table: antique. Banquette: custom by Fine Arts Furniture in Schumacher fabric. Dining chairs: antique. Sconces: Galerie des Lampes. Window shade: Horizons. Ceiling light: Soane. Library lights: Visual Comfort. Chair: custom by Fine Arts Furniture in Quadrille fabric. Rattan side table: vintage.
Barfield Thompson keeps the cheery palette alive in the hallway, which is swathed in a wallcovering by Farrow & Ball. Of course, the home’s color scheme has a lot more to offer than good looks. “I think that using colors to visually make spaces feel bigger is so important, [especially] as a connection between rooms,” she explains. A neutral runner, Urban Electric Co. sconces, and artwork from Josef Albers bring a fashionable edge to this functional space.
Paper: Dragged Papers, Farrow & Ball. Sconces: Urban Electric Co. Art: Josef Albers. Rug: Galerie Shebab.
While the kitchen offered a breath of fresh air, the apartment’s powder room played the role of a livable “jewelry box.” “It’s the one time that your guests are alone, so every detail has to be important, really thoughtful, and ready to shine,” Barfield Thompson explains. Here, she lined the walls with a paper-backed fabric from Pierre Frey and painted the trim in a corresponding plum hue. With layers of Indian watercolors and symmetrical sconces, this whimsical room provides a major “wow” factor.
Walls: Pierre. Trim and Vanity Paint: Farrow & Ball. Sconces: Ann Morris. Mirror: antique from Sotheby’s. Art: Stair Galleries.
Throughout the home, Barfield Thompson juxtaposed eye-catching antiquities with more contemporary pieces. “They really allow you to create a unique composition,” she shares. “You’re able to break out of that ubiquitous look and create this one-of-a-kind space that really speaks to the people who live in them.” In the study, Barfield Thompson married old and new by pairing a vintage Persian rug and Louis XVI desk with modern Robert Mangold prints.
Walls, curtain and daybed fabric: Groves Brother. Bed: Custom by Charles Beckley. Pillow: Alex Conroy Art: Robert Mangold. Rug: vintage from Galerie Shebab. Desk: Vintage from Doyle. Desk accessories: vintage from John Rosselli Antiques. Ceiling light: vintage Murano.
The designer searched high and low to find the perfect antiques for this Park Avenue home, mainly sourcing from the United States and Europe. Fortunately, that careful curation during the height of the pandemic paid off in dividends. “It comes together to be a really beautiful composition,” Barfield Thompson says. “Everything [is] really special and has character. Nothing is too big of a statement, but everything in the apartment has a nice conversation.” In the primary bedroom, she mastered the balance between subtle and conversation-sparking with a soothing blue-and-white palette and strategically sourced artwork.
Walls: Bennison. Curtains: Pindler Linen with a Samuel & Sons Fringe. Paintings: vintage from Sotheby’s. Bedding: Matouk.
When it came to designing the family’s primary bathrooms, simplicity was key. “We wanted them to be timeless spaces that wouldn’t age in 10 years,” Barfield Thompson explains. In the parents’ bathroom, she opted for a soothing palette, complete with a white Eagle Tile backsplash and classic sconces from Charles Edwards.
Fixtures: Waterworks. Sconces: Charles Edwards. Tile: Eagle Tile. Towels: Matouk.
Though Barfield Thompson designed the children’s spaces with the future in mind, she did pepper in some youthful touches. Case in point: the Roman shades in each room. “Since they’re kids’ rooms, we wanted them to be a little more whimsical and fun, and window treatments were the right place to do that,” she explains. In the nursery, Tillet Textiles-lined shades take center stage, offering a sweet touch to the all-pink space.
Rug: Patterson Flynn Martin. Fabric on Roman shade and canopy: Tillet Textiles. Trim on canopy and Roman shade: Houles. Canopy Liner: Colefax and Fowler. Chair and Ottoman: upholstered in Elitis Fabric. Floor Lamp: Vaughan. Side table: vintage from Chairish. Mirror: Mark Gagnon. Crib Sheet: Schweitzer. Artwork: Jean Hugo French. Bookcase: vintage from Kenny Ball Antiques.
Admittedly, children’s bedrooms are some of the more challenging areas to design. Though kid’s rooms should be packed with childish wonder, anything too twee will be outdated in a few years’ time. However, Barfield Thompson achieved a timeless sentiment by incorporating classic elements. “The goal was to create rooms with beautiful fabrics, nice palettes, and pretty-but-practical furniture that could grow with the kids over time,” she shares. “The reality is that kids’ belongings will make [a room] feel pretty childish once they’re settled into the space, so I let the toys, stuffed animals, and books, take over that element.”
Bed: vintage, upholstered in Manuel fabric. Bedding: Letterna. Lamp: Christopher Spitzmiller. Art: vintage. Bookshelves: Mecox Gardens. Wall paint: Farrow & Ball. Ceiling light: Vaughan.
The home’s main bathrooms might be simple, but they’re anything but boring. Barfield Thompson gave the children’s washroom a fresh, playful edge with striped wallpaper and cheery towels from D. Porthault. The result? A space that’s both tasteful and timeless.
Sconces and bath fixtures: Waterworks. Tile: Eagle Tile,. Medicine cabinet: Restoration Hardware Towels: D. Porthault.
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