The Upper West Side is a family paradise. The historic Manhattan neighborhood sits book-ended to the east and west by Central and Riverside Parks, and is home to a bevy of cultural institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History. If you’re not walking the tree-lined side streets with a dog or a stroller (or a stroller filled with dogs, for that matter), you run the risk of being pegged as an outsider.
Upper West Siders Jayne and Joan Michaels, the twin-sister design duo behind the aptly named firm 2Michaels, can attest, especially since they recently transformed a sprawling seven-story brownstone on West 88th Street into a family home for a photographer, her husband, daughter, and two pooches.
The clients sought out 2Michaels, whose office is located eight blocks from the house, to create a warm and cozy space for living and entertaining. Both spouses come from large families, members of which are frequently coming to town to stay. “There’s always something going on,” Joan says.
Getting the aesthetic right, as with any project, was the task that required the most consideration. The wife, according to Jayne, is very visual—a trait that’s to be expected from a photographer. It was 2Michaels’s use of color and texture that endeared the twins to her. “She and her husband are very different, but they both are able to agree on certain points,” Jayne says. The husband has a yen for Shaker-style furniture, while the wife, who is a collector of outsider art, leans more outré aesthetically. “Any space that looks like a hotel makes her cringe,” Joan says.
Because the communal areas of the house are voluminous and plenteous, furniture and art choices needed to skew extra large. Jayne recalls walking through the empty house the first time and having an anxious reaction. “It felt like an airport, it was so vast,” she says. “It can be very impersonal when you have that much space. Small furniture is just going to be swallowed up.”
On the first floor, they opted to create two discrete living areas, connected by a dining area that features an 11-foot Asher Israelow table and a mammoth asymmetrically cut textile by Claudy Jongstra stretching across the wall. “The textile worked to bring all the rooms on the floor together,” Joan says. “It’s anything but predictable.”
What the Michaels sisters stressed to their clients most, beyond furniture choices and placement of art, was the importance of color. “The walls were white throughout the house,” Joan says. “It looked so generic, so sterile.” At first, the clients wanted to keep them as they were, so it took some convincing. “We told them it wasn’t them,” she adds.
The homeowners conceded, and from the pallid redundancy of white came various shades of blue in the primary bedroom, study, and front parlor, as well as the Vintage Vogue green of the kitchen. “It’s a warm and inviting atmosphere,” Joan says.
And that atmosphere is perfect for a family of three (plus a constant parade of houseguests) with a precocious daughter who spends much of her time reading books, curled up on sofas, or practicing at the grand piano in the living room, which overlooks a well-groomed garden. For a house on the Upper West Side, it’s all anyone could ask for.