Great and Classic Apartment for Life

Though designer Marshall Watson was delighted with his new project’s location—in a pedigreed building with direct views of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Beaux Arts façade and into its galleries of classical antiquities—the space, as he found it, was far from problem-free. It had a palatial “head” (entry hall and double parlor), but the body, toward the natural light–deficient back, was disproportionately restrained, thanks to a subdivision some years prior.

“No surprise: our major inspiration lay just across the street,” says Marshall, whose new book, The Art of Elegance: Classic Interiors (Rizzoli New York, $55), will be released on March 14. “Since the apartment looked directly into into the museum’s Greek and Roman galleries, we decided that the residence would be a de facto extension of them.” So Marshall, a designer renowned for his meticulously researched interiors, set to work with the owners’ architect, reapportioning oversize public rooms, creating new spaces: a half bath, a prelude to the master suite, a library, and passages connecting each. With an eye toward getting the best use of natural light, the parlor, library, and bedroom were all positioned along Fifth Avenue, while the formal dining room, occupied almost exclusively at night, was set on the dim inner court.

“I was gratified to see that the couple’s very contemporary art collection sat naturally and comfortably within a classical setting,” Marshall says. “Rather than being at odds with one another, art, architecture, and décor are all mutually enriching.”

Striking Belgian marble floors mix with poured, mercury glass–paned mirrors set behind Hellenic art, playing on the fact that across the street from this Fifth Avenue pied-à-terre sit the classical and antiquity galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Reflective surfaces abound in the foyer, pulling in light from the living room to play off the Biedermier furniture and contemporary art.

Soft neutrals and sculptural upholstery set the stage to let the striking work by Alexander Calder shine above the mantel. Classical motifs continue in the mantelpiece.