Photographer: Annie Schlechter/Annie Schlechter
Photographer: Annie Schlechter/Annie Schlechter

New York Behind Closed Doors: A Peek Into a City’s Eclectic Living Rooms

Writer Polly Devlin and photographer Annie Schlechter are fascinated by the ways New Yorkers fill their small living spaces with art, books, furniture, and treasures. In their new book, New York: Behind Closed Doors, they document the bold, colorful personalities behind 24 homes in the city.
Paul Rudolph's “Modulightor”
Paul Rudolph's “Modulightor”

This 58th Street townhouse and commercial space was designed by the late architect Paul Rudolph, with two upper floors and a roof deck added later by an acolyte. Currently, the top three floors are occupied by Ernst Wagner, a protector of Rudolph's legacy. Here, in one of the building's many light-filled rooms that open to the outside, wheeled furniture designed by Rudolph strikes a metallic contrast to lush plant life.

Photographer: Annie Schlechter

Artist Jane Rosenblum’s Dining Room
Artist Jane Rosenblum’s Dining Room

The table in the foreground, with its dazzling fragments of glass that reflect the colors of the rest of the room, was designed by furniture maker Daniel Clément. The chandelier was found by Rosenblum in Miami, and the artworks on the walls are by Alan Turner (left of the fireplace), Frank Stella (right of the fireplace, on bottom) and Bruce Connor (right of the fireplace, top). Assorted taxidermy, collectibles, and candles cover most of the surfaces in the room.

Photographer: Annie Schlechter

Hamish Bowles’s Book-Filled Salon
Hamish Bowles’s Book-Filled Salon

Something to read, anyone? In the peripatetic Vogue contributor’s library, eclectic furniture such as a reupholstered Récamier sofa, a marble top Louis XV table, and an 1850s gesso slipper chair play second fiddle to endless stacks and shelves of books Bowles has collected in a life of writing, fashion, and travel. The green-and-gold wall paneling is by Studio Peregalli.

Photographer: Annie Schlechter

Robert Littman and Sully Bonnelly’s Office
Robert Littman and Sully Bonnelly’s Office

A work by Agnes Martin, with her elegant simple lines, hangs in dialogue with shelves filled with white and cream flower pots. The table is by Piero Fornasetti, the chair is by Verner Panton, and the plexiglass cube on the right is a work by Larry Bell. Elsewhere, the couple’s serene apartment serves as a showcase for more colorful art by Olafur Eliasson, David Hockney, and Carl Andre.

Photographer: Annie Schlechter

Louise Grunwald’s Romantic Dining Room
Louise Grunwald’s Romantic Dining Room

Deep brown lacquer is not a choice for dining room walls that many people would make. But famed hostess Grunwald oversaw the applications of eight layers of the coloring to achieve this rich tone, which serves as a dramatic backdrop to 19th-century green leather chairs and a rare Chamberlain Worchester porcelain dinner service in a similar hue. The Albert Hadley mirror screen in the corner gives dimension and space to the room, and the two paintings by Alexandre-François Desportes add a sense of gravitas.

Photographer: Annie Schlechter

Susan Sheehan’s Brownstone Parlor
Susan Sheehan’s Brownstone Parlor

According to Devlin, the book’s writer, the exterior of this Union Square-adjacent townhouse is almost as ornate as the sculptural interior. Gallerist Susan Sheehan has filled her home with art by such artists as Willem de Kooning, David Hockney, and Jasper Johns; she has also carpeted her walls with oddities such as tiles made by Victorian ceramic artist William De Morgan (you can see them here, on the wall through the archway). On the right, the gold-painted wall panels are actually segments of 1940s wallpaper that Sheehan found at a flea market.

Photographer: Annie Schlechter

Kenneth Jay Lane’s Jewel-Box Parlor
Kenneth Jay Lane’s Jewel-Box Parlor

Who says a brown-walled room has to be dark? Octogenarian jeweler-to-the-stars Kenneth Jay Lane has created a gleaming, dizzying combination of textures and colors in the salon of his Park Avenue apartment. Animal prints meet museum-quality paintings and marble busts—the one on the fireplace mantle has been loaned to the Met—all underneath plasterwork original to the room.

Photographer: Annie Schlechter

New York: Behind Closed Doors

The book is available now from Gibbs Smith and on Amazon.com.

Photographer: Annie Schlechter

New York: Behind Closed Doors