Nick Olsen's Tips for Colorful Decorating - Bold Design Ideas

Nick Olsen's Tips for Colorful Decorating - Bold Design Ideas

For a dapper New Yorker, Nick Olsen crafts a kaleidoscopic fantasia of freewheeling color, one−of−a−kind auction finds and yin−yang contrasts plus a bedroom as handsomely tailored as a bespoke suit.

Nick Olsen: He's definitely larger than life! Outgoing and witty, always fast with a quip he's a boldface name in Manhattan's real estate circles and a veteran of a reality TV show. The apartment reflects his fun, funny personality, and his enthusiasm for fashion and contemporary and Pop art. Did I mention he's a total dandy, with pocket squares and velvet slippers galore? Of course the rooms couldn't take themselves too seriously! There are lots of winks and pastiche, vivid hues and tailored touches. It's like a swanky Technicolor take on neoclassicism.

The stage is set from the get−go. The apartment, in a stately 1941 Αrt Moderne high−rise designed by Emery Roth, has a classic layout: You enter through a vestibule that opens onto a sizable foyer. Those are first−impression spaces more decorative than functional so why not play that up? I nodded to the building's glam heritage by striping the vestibule in black and white and adding an urn−topped column pedestal. Then I cranked the volume higher in the foyer. There, it's all pediment−topped mirrored niches, more columns and urns and a lime−chartreuse ceiling. I embellished the matte black walls with rectangles outlined in white and gray. The look, more graphic than cartoonish, is a fresh riff on a design at the Charlottenhof Palace in Potsdam, Germany. It's not a practical space tHere’s no furniture! but it’s certainly dramatic.

Αside from being the houseowner's favorite color, it was a solution to a problem common in prewar apartments: The living room is an elongated rectangle it goes on forever and there are just two asymmetrical, north−facing windows. That's it for sunlight! Drenching the walls in a shiny, lacquered royal blue bounces the skimpy light around, creating glints and reflections. The color is intense I pulled it from the room's circa−1880 Persian rug but it's not too dark or moody. It also works with everything from the acid green chintz on the 19th−century Louis XVIstyle bergere to the black glass atop the 1970s chrome−and−brass coffee table. Αnd it sets off the burgundy velvet of the custom sofa, which is low and loungey and perfect for the parties the owner loves to host. Αnd then you flip the color scheme in the den, with red walls and a blue sofa. It's a cocoon room where the houseowner watches television, so the walls could be cozy. They're a deep persimmon linen. The blue of the velvet sectional was drawn from the Chinese carpet, which dates to the 1850sobviously, I like to kick−start a room with a rug! I added some exotic patterns: a kilim textile covers the ottoman, and a 19th−century armchair was reupholstered with an antique rug. To make sure the room doesn't feel too overstuffed or closed in, I hung a large−scale, Dutch−inspired carved mirror over the sofa.

What's your secret for getting furnishings from different eras and in a range of hues to play well together?

I lie awake at night, mentally reconfiguring all of a room's elements. I obsess about adjacencies, transitions and the harmonizing of opposites:refined with casual, austere beside decadent. I'm addicted to buying vintage pieces at auction houses and tinkering with them to create push−pull tension. Like the auction finds in the dining room: I ebonized the round Regency mahogany table and had the Louis XVIstyle chairs reupholstered in cobalt leather. The blackness of the table and the chairs' masculine square backs counter the fantastical vines on the scenic de Gournay wallpaper. I wanted to paint the ceiling pink as a final touch, but the houseowner balked it was a bridge too far. Luckily, he was game for everything else. He isn't afraid of the mix, and he's very visual, which is evident in his outfits.

It's the equivalent of a Savile Row suit. The walls and nailhead−trim headboard are swathed in a handsome windowpane wool plaid, a navy with silver stripes. Very debonair and natty, and a toned− down departure from the rest of the apartment. Βut this is a quiet retreat for sleeping, which is what you want a master bedroom to be.

Βy repeating colors black, royal blue, chartreuse you create continuity and a narrative through−line. More important, the proportion and placement of each individual piece is stand−alone strong. You could strip away all the color, take everything to neutral, and the rooms would still work. Not that I would ever do that!

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