The twelve-foot Corian bar, left, is flanked by bar stools. Guests can perch along the back of the Zanotta couch if they want to face each other. On the bar is a camel leg made into a clarinet by the artist Jim Shaw, from a series called Dream Objects. Top left, a 215-gallon blue glass fish tank houses eels and sharks. The vinyl-tape floor took four people four days to complete. Photo: Floto + Warner

When you imagine an apartment in Gramercy Park’s National Arts Club—an architectural ode to all things Victorian—you’d sooner expect to find an Edith Wharton character sprawled on a fainting couch than a hip young bachelor leaning on an Italian modernist sectional. For the unsuspecting visitor, the dissonance makes gallerist Tim Nye’s sleek, airy duplex a delightful shock.

“It was blind luck that I found this place,” says Nye of his 1,800-square-foot apartment in the recesses of the landmark 1840s mansion. The founder of the Thread Waxing Space, the downtown contemporary-art gallery and performance venue that opened in 1991, Nye had been searching for a new location when the gallery’s lease ran out. “My grandmother was friendly with Aldon [James, president of the National Arts Club], and she learned there was a space available there,” he says. Now he rents two floors for the gallery, named Nyehaus, and another two floors directly below for his own private quarters. “They are pretty much lifelong rentals,” says Nye. “Aldon likes to say, ‘The only way tenants vacate the spaces is horizontally.’ ”

But it needed a gut renovation. “Sheets of paint were falling from the ceiling,” says Nye. Designer Jacqueline Miro-Abreu, Nye’s high-school pal, carved out a streamlined, hyperfunctional space in six months. “Tim wanted a dining-room table to seat ten people, a bar, a seating area, space for artwork,” says Miro-Abreu. Before she built the platform that now serves as the dining area, the mammoth window was five feet above the floor; now it’s waist-high and the living room, by contrast, appears sunken.

The brightly striped floor was added after the renovation. It was created by Glasgow-based artist Jim Lambie. “I’d wanted to acquire a major piece of his for some time,” says Nye. “It’s practical. Anytime it gets ripped or scuffed, I just cut out the ruined piece and replace it with fresh tape in the same color. He left me a lifetime supply.”