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Instant Classic

Delphine Krakoff transformed a chilly Upper East Side townhouse into a chic family home in record time.


Photographs by Cari Vuong

Delphine Krakoff had her work cut out for her. Her client, a fashion executive relocating to New York from Paris, presented her with a two-part challenge: Find a place to rent, and have it impeccably designed and move-in-ready … within three months. Krakoff, the principal of Pamplemousse Design, was undeterred. “I love working fast,” she says. “You have a very clear point of view when you do.”

So the search began. Krakoff visited nearly two dozen homes before securing this nineteenth-century townhouse with a massive back wall of glass and steel. Given the restrictive schedule, Krakoff had to proceed without the usual process of consultations and meetings, and knowing only that the client prefers, in both her home and wardrobe, a black-and-white palette. So the designer used that as the home’s foundation. “She’s an immaculate woman who has a super-identifiable eye,” Krakoff says. “You would recognize that this is her house.” Beyond that, Krakoff was free to play, as the client was bringing nothing with her—no furniture, rugs, art. “She came with two suitcases—that’s it,” says Krakoff.

Krakoff’s strategy was to intersperse iconic mid-century furnishings with contemporary designs. She sourced museum-worthy vintage finds from auctions, galleries, and eBay (handily avoiding the wait for custom items) and set these off with pieces that straddle the line between art and object, like Maarten Baas’s charred dining table and a lighting fixture by Joris Laarman for Flos. Rugs and custom floor-to-ceiling drapery (a rush job from one of her go-to vendors) add warmth to what Krakoff calls the “cold architecture.”

What resulted was a home that feels cozy and lived-in, and truly reflects the client, despite the fact that it was designed in a scant 90 days. Krakoff says she wouldn’t change a thing if given more time. “There are benefits of working slowly. But I like working fast or very slowly—in between is the worst for me.”


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