Transformed by the interior designer Tony Ingrao, a Greenwich Village townhouse becomes the ideal setting for one family’s outstanding collection of contemporary art. After that, Allison and Warren Kanders invited AD into their art-filled sanctuary.
Five years ago, art again spurred a change, the family’s biggest yet. So they and their three school-age children decided to commit to the city full-time, retaining their Greenwich place as a weekend retreat. Though Allison admits she longed for a doorman and a view, “Warren and the kids love downtown.” They ultimately chose a five-story townhouse in Greenwich Village.
According to AD, the couple turned to Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper, AD100 designers known for their urbane and almost offhand way of dealing with even the most precious antiques and artworks, to modernize the landmark structure. Ingrao gutted the place, ripping out flooring, removing one of the two living room fireplaces and designing a new staircase. Now a striking set of Jean Prouvé–inspired aluminum sliding doors pierced with portholes separates the living area from the kitchen, which is flooded with sunlight thanks to new overscale windows.
Art, not surprisingly, was a major consideration—specifically having enough wall space for it. “There was a constant discussion of art, from day one,” says Ingrao. “We talked 24/7 about placement. Art for them is number one. Then come mood and comfort. But at the same time, they were adamant that they didn’t want to live in a museum.”
“My instruction to Tony was: Nothing shiny!” says Allison. “I wanted soft textures, I wanted color. I wanted the place to be cozy. This is Tony stepping out of his box.” But, she notes wryly, “he does know how to read a client. Tony never says no, and I’m not easy.”
The result of the nearly five-year renovation is a master class in creating a space that showcases art but still feels welcoming. Yes, the walls are white, but here they are Venetian plaster, with a subtle sheen. There are broad expanses of the wall filled with major works, but the large spaces are broken up with intimate seating groups.
The often-changing array of artworks includes pieces by Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Laura Owens, Gabriel Orozco, Roni Horn, David Hammons, and Gerhard Richter, among many others. The roster of furnishings is just as impressive, with luxury designs by Pierre Jeanneret, Pierre Paulin, Maria Pergay, and Marc Newson. But as Ingrao points out, “The furnishings mix with 18th-century fabrics and hand-embroidered pieces. There are lots of textures, but nothing so showy it competes with the art.” The Jeanneret settee and chairs are covered in green hair on hiding, the pair of 1972 Pierre Paulin chairs sport mohair and another sofa is covered in an emerald silk velvet finished with a subtle fringe.
Upstairs, hand-hewn oak cabinetry lines the passageways to the bedrooms, which are studded with even more art, including the children’s bedrooms. “The kids love this place and now they are at an age when they can appreciate it. The one rule is, Do not touch the art!” she adds with a laugh. The master bedroom, a sanctuary of white, is cocooned with curtains of a thick-woven Isabel Marant wool, evocative of macramé—but far more elegant and luxurious.
Even the garden is a work of art. The Kanderses enlisted artist Paula Hayes, whose landscape-focused work was featured this past summer at the Aspen Art Museum. “Allison had to twist my arm a bit,” Hayes admits. “But I loved the collaboration. The garden became more floriferous and more colorful because of her.” In the small space, a magnificent magnolia, a dogwood, and a delicate Japanese maple contrast with jagged lime-green grasses. Colorful flowers are planted in both traditional urns and Hayes’s signature blobby silicone planters.
“I wanted to live with art,” says Allison, “but I wanted a balance, a place where you don’t see only the art or only the furnishings. This feels like a real home.”
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Photographies by Thomas Loof, AD Magazine.