In His Duplex Penthouse in Chelsea, Decorator Scott Sanders Brings the Outside In and Vice Versa, Saturating Everything in Bright Color
When designer Scott Sanders was growing up in a small town in Ohio, he spent a lot of time drawing. As the son and grandson of residential developers, it was only natural that he would focus his attention on rendering homes, most of them far grander than the ones his family was building. One illustration even depicts a spacious penthouse with a landscaped roof garden, much like the one where he lives today with his partner, Peter Wilson, a retired corporate attorney.
Wilson bought the Chelsea duplex several years ago, before he and Sanders became a couple. “I had been living on the Upper West Side,” he remembers, “but downtown seemed a lot more exciting. I wound up picking an unfinished unit with three walls of glass and views everywhere.” Those vistas to the east, west, and south encompass some of the great landmarks of New York City, including the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty, and the new World Trade Center.
“After we decided that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together,” Sanders adds, “Peter asked me to move in.” At the time, Sanders was hitting his stride as the founding principal of Scott Sanders LLC, having previously spent ten years with Ralph Lauren. He was the lifestyle guru’s first head designer, and his credits include the exquisite flagship store on Madison Avenue.
In the course of his career, Sanders has developed a signature look he calls “New American Style,” and he’s known for designing homes that are rooted in tradition. But this apartment, with its many mid-20th-century pieces by Eames, Wegner, Wormley, Saarinen, and others, is more overtly contemporary than most of the work he has done for his clients. “‘New American Style,’” Sanders elaborates, “is about warmth, and creating spaces people feel comfortable in. There’s no velvet rope. It’s about layers and textures and mixing the past and present. People’s tastes can change, but for the most part their basic needs always stay the same.”
The primary living space of the Sanders/Wilson penthouse is located on the 14th floor, which comprises an open living room, dining area, and den, plus the kitchen, master suite, and two additional bedrooms now serving as offices. There are two small terraces on the lower floor, but the real luxury is upstairs on the 15th floor, which is entirely given over to an expansive roof deck fitted with a hot tub, an outdoor shower, a shaded dining table, a bar, and even an alfresco sleeping area.
“Last year, when it came time to do the apartment over, I pretty much gave Scott free reign,” Wilson says. “I love design, but I’m not trained in it. Scott’s the expert.” The latest manifestation includes brand-new ebony floors, wall coverings that range from paint and wallpaper to a deep indigo grass cloth, a dark rosewood veneer on the massive fireplace separating the dining area and the den, and a host of contemporary, vintage, and custom furnishings. Above the dining table, for example—designed by Sanders in collaboration with master woodworker Paul Ferrante—hangs a new fixture from Remains Lighting, though the glass is vintage. “When I saw the glass, I asked Remains if they could make a lantern big enough for it,” says Sanders, who typically enjoys a full-figured chandelier.
While most of the main living space is wrapped in soft platinum gray tones and gray wall-to-wall carpeting, there is a lot of color in the furniture and accessories, particularly blue. “I love blue and turquoise,” Sanders says. “Blue was my mother’s favorite color, and we always had blue houses. I associate it with everything good about being home.”
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