In the long entry hall, sepia-toned photos depict New York while four-foot-square mirrors reflect the apartment’s stunning views of the city.Two years ago, award-winning interior designer Skip Sroka and his partner of 13 years, John Kammeier, were in the middle of renovating their roomy Washington, DC, home when Kammeier was offered a job he simply couldn’t refuse as vice president of merchandising for the fashion conglomerate Randa Corporation. The catch? The job would force Kammeier to relocate to New York City. With Sroka’s highly respected design firm based in the DC area, it was impossible for the two to simply uproot and begin again. Therefore, the couple decided to continue their Washington renovation but give first priority to scouting for a small, comfortable home for Kammeier in New York.
They found what they were looking for in a one-bedroom condominium with impressive views of the United Nations building and the East River. “This had to be a warm, cozy yet sophisticated home for John,” says Sroka. The condo is more of a pied-à-terre for Skip, while for Kammeier, their commodious Washington, DC, house has become his getaway.
“In many ways, John became my client,” recalls Sroka. Workers were immediately called in to scrape the “popcorn” ceilings, replaster the walls and paint so Kammeier could move into a fresh space within one week. Because he would be traveling so much on business, the place also needed to be virtually maintenance free yet still retain the quality and comfort of a small home. It’s not a large apartment but it offers everything Sroka and Kammeier require. The “intimate size” of the home also created intriguing design challenges for Sroka. “I’m used to working with much more space,” he begins. “For our New York home, I had to be very aware of space, therefore everything we picked is for maximum comfort and utility.”
To give Kammeier a warm, relaxing retreat from his high-pressure job, Sroka began by painting the entryway and living room walls a pale camel color. “I love the long entry hall,” says Sroka. “In so many small New York apartments you walk directly into the living room.” Indeed, the hall allowed Sroka to set the stage for the rest of the residence. Framed sepia-toned photographs of New York are accentuated in the opposite wall’s substantial four-by-four-foot mirrors, which also reflect the living room’s stunning views.
Sroka selected furniture with a clean, contemporary look that is softened considerably with rounded lines and earthen colors. “To put traditional furniture in this contemporary apartment just wouldn’t have been appropriate,” maintains Sroka. The stunning David Shapiro painting was a housewarming gift to themselves. It’s a special piece that combines compelling color, design and great depth, ideal for viewing in the small living room. The vibrant tans, oranges, reds and golds of the piece are accentuated throughout the room. Neutral, upholstered furnishings are punched with vibrant and textural pillows, giving multiple layers of interest to the room. Twin gold, high-backed chairs are highly stylish but more importantly, very comfortable; they are upholstered in commercial chenille that offers a soft hand but “wears like iron,” says Sroka. Between the chairs, an Art Deco style lamp rests upon a round mahogany table. Beside the camel-colored couch, a glass-topped end table is adorned with family photos and antique 1920s iron souvenirs of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.
Underfoot, Sroka chose a round, neutrally colored area rug to bring in additional texture, warmth and soundproofing. “The liberal use of fabrics, from the draperies to large area rugs, was necessary to developing that warmer feel, but also to help muffle the noise of the city,” says Sroka.
For the small dining area, Sroka chose a round mahogany table that seats four and a painting by Alice Mostoff, a noted Alexandria, Virginia, artist. “Believe it or not we do entertain quite a bit here,” says Sroka. The two regularly host cocktail parties for up to 18 guests quite comfortably.
In the bedroom, the walls are painted in a slightly darker version of the living room. “I wanted this room to feel like a warm cocoon,” he says. Sroka also designed the six-foot brushed cotton headboard to help envelop the space. The brilliant bedding boasts a mélange of color and texture in reds and sapphires. The walls are adorned with photos from Tuscany, one of the couple’s favorite vacation spots.
Every inch of the small bedroom is utilized. Of the room’s desk, Sroka says, “We joke that in Washington we have a library, in New York we have a desk.”
The project was an unexpected challenge that the two met head on. “John deserved to have a warm retreat that still offers style and substance,” says Sroka. For his part, Sroka learned a lot along the way. “With an intimate space, you become much more aware of every square inch. You outfit every closet to maximize its utility. You select only the most comfortable furnishings that may also serve double duty. And most importantly for John, you work to achieve a truly care- and maintenance-free space that is a warm and inviting home to relax and unwind in after the workday.”
John D. Adams is a freelance writer based in Virginia. Photographer Timothy Bell lives and works in New York City.
In the living room, a painting by David Shapiro adds depth and dimension.
Sroka selected contemporary furnishings softened by round lines and earthen colors. Liberal use of fabrics and textiles not only warms the space, but also muffles the sounds of the city below.
A large painting by Alexandria artist Alice Mostoff anchors the round mahogany dining table surrounded by four David Edward chairs.