Despite the fact that she has been running her own interior design business for just a decade, and without a lot of previous experience, Kimille Taylor has made a quick career out of crafting stylish urban apartments and weekend houses — from the Hamptons to Colorado ski country — with an underlying practicality.
“It’s always for families with two to three kids and even up to five,” says the New Jersey–born, Manhattan-based designer. “I know that the coffee table mustn’t crack their heads open and that the kitchen banquette has to be durable.”
It’s an expertise earned firsthand. In 2011, when Taylor’s daughter, Georgia, was two years old, the designer and her then-husband yearned for larger quarters in which to raise their child. She found an apartment for sale with Hudson River views that was the right size (and price) in a gracious 1922 brick building on Cathedral Parkway, named for its proximity to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. But it was in “estate condition” — an elegant way of saying that the apartment, whose previous resident had lived there for five decades, was a wreck.
The dining table and banquette, upholstered in a Maharam mohair, are custom designs; the swivel chairs are by Koi and the painting is by Allen Anthony Hansen.
The dirty beige wall-to-wall carpeting was especially off-putting. “The place looked like a horror show,” Taylor recalls. “Everyone who looked at it walked in and right back out. I thought, the grosser the better.” That can-do approach is all the more courageous given that Taylor, who just completed the gut renovation of a former church in Telluride for New York clients, isn’t a trained decorator. She studied art history in college and worked in the operations department at Christie’s auction house for nine years before quitting to follow her dream.
She went to work for New York interior designer Sean Johnson, starting out by folding fabrics and “labeling everything in the office like an OCD nut,” she recalls with a laugh. “I had the most thankless job at Christie’s — every piece of art had to get there and get out. It was all about logistics. I know how to rock a spreadsheet, and that has been hugely helpful in this business.”
Right away, Taylor realized that the configuration of her new apartment was all wrong. She opened up the living room by taking out a wall that blocked a view of the river, while adding a new wall to create intimacy in the dining area. She transformed the maid’s room into her office, which also serves as a guest room thanks to a horizontally mounted Murphy bed, and an “archery zone” for Georgia (almost no room is barred from play).
The kitchen contains a Bertazzoni oven, a Fisher & Paykel refrigerator, and marble counters; the subway tile is from Home Depot and the flooring is oak painted with a custom design.
A 15-footlong pantry was installed behind chic black-painted cabinetry. To enlarge the kitchen, Taylor removed a huge terracotta pipe that originally exhausted something — possibly coal smoke — but was no longer functional. “The building’s super told me I could probably take it out,” she says. “We dismantled it brick by brick, no sledgehammer, because at first we weren’t sure what would happen.”
The renovation took about three months. Well, not exactly: When Taylor moved in, the master bedroom and bath were not yet finished, and there was no kitchen except for plywood countertops, a toaster oven, and a mini fridge. “To understand your clients, every decorator should live through a renovation,” she says. “It’s not easy. It’s emotional.” The decoration remains a work in progress.
In the master bedroom, a Hästens bed is dressed in linens by Sferra and Olatz, the circa-1970 side tables are by Milo Baughman, and the lamp is by Taylor; the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Cinder Rose, and the photographs are by Marsha Lebedev Bernstein.
Taylor initially painted her bedroom lavender, but found it too cold; she has since settled on a dark rose, as glamorous as a dress-up lipstick. “I wanted the womb in here,” she says. “Everything else is crisp. I wanted the bedroom to feel yummy and soft.” Meanwhile, Georgia sleeps in her own delicious environment: on a vintage Maison Jansen daybed surrounded by walls in the wispiest of pinks. When she couldn’t find furnishings that were affordable — or colorful — enough, Taylor designed them herself.
In the living area of interior designer Kimille Taylor’s apartment on New York’s Upper West Side, the Jonas sofa is upholstered in a Holly Hunt mohair, the vintage Étienne Fermigier chairs are covered in a Maharam cotton, the lounge chair is by George Mulhauser, and the cocktail table and wooden lamp are Taylor designs; the midcentury secretary is French, the chandelier is by Jacques Jarrige, the curtains are of a Donghia satin, the rug is by Anthony Monaco and the photograph is by Berndnaut Smilde.
The living area’s custom acrylic cocktail table, for instance, is a radiant golden yellow. Geometric wooden table lamps of her own creation illuminate many of the rooms. “I had a hard time finding something sculptural that didn’t cost $5,000. One day, I took a yoga class — I know that sounds really woo-woo — and these shapes came to me,” she says of her Brancusi-esque lamps.
An ever-growing collection of art is showcased throughout, from a magenta felt wall installation by Bianca Pratorius to a surreal large-scale photograph by the Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde of a grand paneled room with a mysterious cloud at its center. One of a pair of tangled brass chandeliers by the French designer Jacques Jarrige, as much sculpture as light fixture, gleams above another cloud-like image, an abstract painting by Allen Anthony Hansen. Taylor, the former art history student, finds that playful art is not only a “great talking point” with her daughter, but also a linchpin of her design philosophy. “I love a little whimsy in a home — I think it’s important,” she says. “It’s not just me giving my clients my look. It’s about them, and hopefully the best version of their look.”
The living room’s bookshelves are cerused oak and the child’s chair is by Keith Haring.
This story was originally published in the May 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.