Transatlantic design studio Nune’s refurbishment of a Manhattan triplex is mostly monochrome – but never monotonous
Located in New York City’s Gramercy Park neighbourhood, this apartment, originally built in 1945, had a lot of potential when its owners first saw it. The couple, who work in finance and fashion, and had two cats in tow, were immediately convinced it was their next home despite the need for a renovation. Entrusted to transform the space was the team from interior design firm Nune, which partnered with AF Architecture on some of the structural elements. Nune was founded in Brooklyn in 2014 by British-born interior designer Sheena Murphy, who had a much-
travelled life – in Lyon, India and Seattle – before settling down in New York City, where she did a postgraduate degree in interior design at the Parsons School of Design.
The studio continues to flourish in New York – but after seven years living in the city with her husband and their daughter, Murphy decided to go back to her roots, returning to the UK with her family in late 2018 to launch a new
Murphy says of Nune’s design ethos: “We focus on supporting small and independent businesses and designer-makers as much as possible, and we care about the environmental and human impact of our sourcing and design decisions.” She put this vision and her refined aesthetic at the service of this apartment for a transformative refurbishment that took 12 months to complete.
Facing a private and quiet interior courtyard with windows on only one side, the apartment, which occupies a portion of three levels of the building, was initially too dark. Opening up the layout required the demolition of a large pantry, which stood in the centre of the living area; the removal of old dark-stained wood shutters in the main living space; refinishing of the floor in a lighter tone; the addition of Crittall windows to a mezzanine level; and the whitewashing of the exposed brickwork. “Our client was very drawn to monochromatic palettes and metals, so we used a lot of light
materials, but we contrasted those with darker moments and mixed metals for some drama and glamour, without losing the airiness of the space,” says Murphy of the completed project.
The materials were chosen with the couple’s lifestyle in mind. Leather, felted fabrics and tightly woven upholstery (to prevent cat-claws from catching on the surface) add a refined and warm touch throughout the apartment. “The trick was to mix up the types of hides and the tones here so it didn’t feel too repetitive or one-dimensional,” says Murphy.
Our client was very drawn to monochromatic palettes and metals, so we used a lot of light materials, but we contrasted those with darker moments and mixed metals for some drama and glamour
Lighting by Apparatus, Materia Designs andAllied Maker, and furniture by Egg Collective, BDDW and Poritz & Studio reflect both the owners’ taste and Murphy’s preference for local names. “We love to have people’s homes be a mix of humble, honest materials and great design, with an underlying focus on sustainability,” she notes. “We strive to create interiors that are not only easy on the eye but also good for the soul, good for humanity and good for the earth.”
The staircase was designed in collaboration with the local craftspeople who also handled the plaster finish on the wall, and it’s turned out to be one of Murphy’s favourite architectural features. “They were originally very dark and closed in with an outdated railing detail,” she says. “By reconstructing the stair to have floating steps, a Venetian plaster wall and a blackened-steel railing, we were really able to visually open up the entire area. We also put low-level lights on the stair landings, and the shadows cast by the light through the open treads are really beautiful.”
The trick was to mix up the types of hides and the tones here so it didn’t feel too repetitive or one-dimensional
Currently working on a number of renovation projects in New York as well as a commercial space in London, Nune is starting a new chapter, with many opportunities presented by its flourishing European base. “Working with an ocean between my business partner Tor Sauder and I, along with bimonthly trips, certainly comes with its challenges, but at the same time it is a really exciting time for us,” says Murphy. “Europe has opened up to us in terms of vendors and clients and we are eager to see what might come from that.”