A Townhouse Redecoration That Leaves No Trace Behind

An antique French painted daybed anchors the room. Photo: Annie Schlechter

Gilles Chabannes is a designer who doesn’t want to leave any footprints. When one of his clients purchased an apartment in a McKim, Mead & White townhouse, its interior worn down by time plus a bad ’80s intervention (grass cloth on the walls!), his aesthetic discretion came into play. Although this room “looked very depressing,” Chabannes says, “we kept everything we loved: the ceiling that looked like fabric, the frieze, the upper tapestry panels, the two antique mirrors, the chandelier, and of course the fireplace.” 

What he did add seems as though it’s always been there. Silk wainscoting replaced the grass cloth. An antique French painted daybed anchors the room. The parquetry floor was repaired and refinished; the original doors were polished. “The building is unique,” Chabannes says. “It’s resonant; it takes you elsewhere, in another time. And “The client is unusual. He saw the house as a found object rather than a custom-made dream palace. That stance is interesting and rare, and I was happy to comply.”

The chandelier, inherited from a previous owner, has both candles and bulbs. The English armchairs from the 1920s that flank the fireplace are upholstered in Abutilon Nero by Etro. All the upholstery was done by Manzanares Furniture CorporationThe daybed is from the 1860s, newly upholstered in Khamsa Paisley by Lee JofaThe blue fabric on the walls is “Bark Silk” from Pollack, installed by Fausto Vidal of Vidal Design & Decoration. The Shah Abbasi Persian rug is from Habib Soumekh.

*This article appears in the Winter 2016 issue of New York Design Hunting.