Where the Boys Were

Owner: YMCA
Years in residence: 1904–1999
Interesting factoid: The pool was built before filtration was invented. It was bathing suit optional, men only. Mr. Merrill met Mr. Lynch while swimming.

Owner: Cindy Gallop
Purchased: 2003
Interesting factoid: There are no wallsbetween the master bathroom and bedroom.

A few years ago, Cindy Gallop was sipping martinis at the Glamour Bar, her favorite hangout in Shanghai, when she had an epiphany, perfectly timed for her midlife crisis: “I wish I could live like this.” Soon after, she bought a 3,500-square-foot raw space that was once the senior locker room in the old YMCA building on West 23rd Street.

She had a specific vision for her new home. “I was looking for something dramatic,” she says. So she told her designer, Stefan Boublil of the Apartment, a creative agency in Soho, “When night falls, I want to feel like I’m in a bar in Shanghai.” She also wanted a suitably dramatic showcase for her art and possessions.

Gallop, who grew up in Brunei, Borneo, began collecting after moving to London, where she joined the BBH ad agency, overseeing campaigns for Johnny Walker and Levi’s. Along the way, she acquired 250-plus pairs of designer stilettos, a framed AK-47 stamped with the Chanel logo and a gold-painted Gucci chain saw (both by artist Peter Gronquist), a black leather Gucci spanking paddle, a pink-and-yellow YSL light installation, and a black leather YSL bustier that she wears on special occasions. “Tom Ford is my god,” says Gallop, who keeps a framed photograph of herself with the designer in her living room. “He designed for strong, confident, sexy women. I like to stand out and make a statement.”

Boublil’s response to Gallop’s demand ran counter to the conventional wisdom of what to do with a New York apartment (make it light, emphasize space). Floors were covered with black carpet; walls were painted with black gloss. “It could have been Venetian lacquer at ten times the price, but the effect is the same,” says Boublil.

To properly display Gallop’s art collection, the designer created an open loft space with eight walls, and black curtains that can be drawn to divide the rooms. One wall in the foyer is painted in red lacquer, inspired by the inside of a Chinese jewelry box, and covered by a black curtain that can be drawn to create privacy in the master suite.

Gallop and her collection are not the only stars of her custom-made club. Nelly, Diddy, and Usher shot their video for “Nasty Girl” here (she loves playing the DVD for guests). Its nightclub design and the provenance of the space are both put to good use during Gallop’s annual birthday bashes. The uniform for the strapping young men who pass the hors d’oeuvre: small white towels printed with the YMCA logo.

Where the Boys Were