Classical Fifth Avenue Design

 In Interior Design, Most Popular

For our design inspiration today, we are taking a look at an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment located within a handsome prewar residential co-op building on New York’s Upper East Side.  This residence was designed to serve as a pied-a-terre for a couple who wished to create for themselves a very special luxury home in the city.  Their appreciation for fine ornamentation and exquisite detail allowed for the creation of a home rich with highly articulated classically inspired design elements that are truly delightful.  These formal interior architecture design details have been combined with a mix of bespoke design upholstered furnishings and period antiques along with contemporary design features and a significant collection of modern art.

The three-bedroom residence was created by combining two original one-bedroom units the couple had secured.  The New York based architect John Murray, a noted master of the classical tradition, created a floor-plan of enfilades with each room opening up to one another.  The architect not only created beautiful, orderly spaces, the rhythm has a purpose beyond what is immediately noticed.  The design repetition and paneled walls continued from room to room creates the feeling of one large volume of space instead of several smaller rooms.  The ornate crown moldings are designed as part of the paneled walls which makes the ceilings appear higher.  He used tall baseboards and placed the chair rails low on the walls which makes the rooms appear proportionally taller than they are.  These and other such principles are carried throughout the apartment expanding the volumes to their best proportions.  Recurring themes and patterns were developed in wood, metal, stone, and plaster, as a way of shaping and unifying the entire space.


The New York interior design firm Cullman & Kravis, who has collaborated with John Murray on multiple projects, brought together the homes furnishings and decorating details.  In all of their projects, the firm embraces a modern traditional design aesthetic.  By artfully mixing antiques of all periods and origins alongside contemporary works and bespoke designs, the results are always timeless and comfortable, just as they are here.


The living room’s paneling includes curved corners and other effects to create a graceful line around the room, as well as for the practical purpose of concealing various structural components.  The design includes a highly stylized custom acanthus leaf molding that lines the room beneath the plaster cornice.





The fireplace features custom bronze work cast by P. E. Guerin.  Its design has been integrated into the paneling of the south wall to create the rooms focal point.  Note the gator leather with tack trim on the Klismos chairs.  The draperies have been made with hand painted and beaded silk.  All of the art used on the walls is by noted contemporary masters.



For the grand entrance into the apartment, a rotunda-shaped entry vestibule was created. The dome ceiling, which creates a perception of additional height, has been highlighted with a stylized Greek key in gold.  This space gives way to a rectangular gallery to one side and to a vaulted gallery down the center of the apartment leading to bedrooms.  This circulation hall is defined by the grid of the stonework and the artwork.


A group of graphite drawings by Alan McCollum, 1989-1990 have been hung in a modern grid as per the artist’s instructions.  To prevent any early notions that the space is period or overly formal, the design team installed simple art lighting in the vaulted ceiling.



The library’s walls are paneled in painted wood with leather panel insets ornamented with bronze stud work. The articulated ceiling incorporates a layering of banding that serves as a decorative organizer for the ceiling lighting, as well as corner details that enhance the form of the cove ceiling.   This room has actually been rendered in a quite contemporary design ultimately.


How exquisite is this powder room?  These are really quite glamorous interiors!




Here in the master bedroom the custom plaster cornice features a repeated geometric design.  Various geometric designs have been incorporated around the room; in the carpet, the glass panels of the very fabulous closet doors, and as trim along the bedding and draperies.  The overall impression of the apartment is that it has always been here, and yet it is still very current.  It is timeless.  True classic design, like true style, cannot be dated.  It is just as the couple wanted for their pied-a-terre.

That concludes our design inspiration for today my friends.  I hope you all have enjoyed and been inspired by this post on classically inspired design.

Architecture: John B. Murray Architect

For over 15 years John Murray’s office has been lauded for its traditional aesthetic, its simplicity of form, and in particular, its supreme craftsmanship. Starting with hand-drawn plans, the firm’s designs all reflect their context, while seamlessly integrating sophisticated and unique details. This old world care, and respect for the creative clarity that comes from a visual as well as in-person dialogue between client and architect, are the firm’s hallmark. Over the years John has collaborated with many of America’s top decorators, and is considered an expert on the Park Avenue vernacular.

Interior Design: Cullman & Kravis

Cullman & Kravis is known for providing the highest quality of design excellence and personal service since 1984.  They collaborate closely with their clients to realize their aesthetic ideas and practical needs while adhering to their established budgets.  While elegance and practicality is C&K’s first objective, their utmost pride comes from the fact that every home they design reflects the personality of the owner, making no two projects the same.  The goal of their most recent work is to redefine the traditional interior.  Their designs have been edited, clarified, and strengthened with new materials and palettes to achieve a “modern traditional” aesthetic.

principle photo: Durston Saylor

sources: Dering Hall

Design Development and the Analytique

Thank you so much for reading along!  Let me hear from you all in the comments!  What did you all think of this Fifth Avenue pied-a-terre?

If you have enjoyed reading today’s post, Please share it on below!


Please like us and share:
Recommended Posts
Showing 9 comments
  • Margaret Simpson

    I so love and embrace these spaces…an inspiration…..Thank you for sharing!
    Margaret Simpson
    Specializing in Custom Drapery and Window Treatments…Sarasota, Fl. 34233

    • Johnny knight

      Thank you so much Margaret! We love them too and we are so glad you do. Thanks for reading along..

  • marguerite aisenstock

    Stunning. I’m jealous. Fabulous design elements.

    • Johnny knight

      Hi Marguerite! Thanks for commenting! I totally agree! The architect and designers involved in this project had everything on point. It was a great joy to cover this project and Im so glad you all like it too! We hope you will continue to read along with us and stay in touch.. We love to hear from you all!!

  • Elizabeth

    What was the wall color used thru out home.

    • JD Knight

      Hi Elizabeth… We asked the architect/designer your question and the office replied “The paint used is a decorative antique glaze that was done by our decorative painters. We use Benjamin Moore paints for our base coats, and customize from there.” So, it was achieved with a custom created color and further customized with an antique glaze created by their painters…so, no color in particular to name..but it is info you can give to your painters and have them try to match. I hope that helps!!!

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] John B Murray– Architecture […]

  • […] more of the perfectly harmonious spaces created by Cullman & Kravis, be sure to see my post Classical Fifth Avenue Design, which features an exquisite apartment on New York’s Upper East […]

  • […] To see more wonderful interiors completed by Cullman & Kravis, one of the most well-regarded design firms in the country with many A-list clients including Oprah Winfrey, be sure to check out Waterfront Venetian Villa and Classical Fifth Avenue Design. […]

Leave a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search