Once in a blue moon, a client meets the perfect interior designer and, like Aristophanes’s “second half” (for all of you Plato fans), they become inseparable. New York decorator Bradley Stephens met his creative match in a pair of sisters, who in 2008, hired him to create a family home in the Hamptons. The finished product was a hit. “They were high-fiving when it was done,” Stephens recalls. “We have never stopped working and are always depressed when we complete a project.”
The stakes were raised considerably when Stephens was recently tasked with designing an Upper East Side home for one of the sisters and her family. “She told me it needs to be my masterpiece,” the designer says. One that felt a little “masculine,” and “clubby,” at that.
Stephens notes that the client loves Art Deco and classical lines, so instead of taking inspiration from iconic ’20s-era homes, he turned to the grand public buildings of the period, like banks and libraries. The designer’s initial mood board, then, featured images of terrazzo floors, tray ceilings, and metal inlays. From there, he began to layer on warmer elements like fine wools and velvets, contemporary art pieces, and a medley of antique and vintage furniture.
Stephens directed the bulk of his efforts to the design of the combined living and dining room. The homeowners wanted the living portion to function like a salon (à la Frederick the Great, not Frédéric Fekkai), so Stephens took care to furnish a space where guests—be it a group of five or 25— can converse and sip cocktails from clusters of sofas and club chairs. “No one should feel hesitant moving the furniture around during a party here,” Stephens says. “The owner wants everyone to be completely at ease.”
At the other end of the space, a more formal, timber-lined dining area is anchored by an oversize Richard Prince painting and features a table with a shagreen base, surrounded by vintage chairs that the client coveted during a stay at the Amsterdam outpost of Soho House.
Of course, Stephens found a way to incorporate his first muse, Art Deco banks, into the apartment—and it turned out to be the biggest design risk: “I ended up doing terrazzo down the gallery, hallway, and into the kitchen,” he says. “It was the single biggest leap of faith.” During the design phase, the designer had dreamed up a crisscrossing, plaidlike pattern of black and blue outlined in brass inlay, but on the drawing, the scheme just looked like a mess of lines. But, as expected, Stephens received only words of encouragement from the client. “We trust you,” she told him. “Make it great.”
And the results are indeed great, evident from the moment you enter the apartment through its dramatic foyer. “It lives beautifully,” says Stephens of the project. “You step back to a more glamorous time where everything was rich.”