Ask any seasoned decorator and they’ll tell you: Every client has their own particular thing. It could be an obsession with the kitchen countertops, perhaps, or simply just a penchant for designer chairs. For a recent project on New York’s Upper East Side by interior designer Hadley Wiggins and architect Anderson Kenny, that concern was color—or rather, how best to render the lack of it. The client, Elana Allen, is a celebrated illustrator and animation director known for lushly drawn children’s books and cartoons. She shares the home with her husband and two young children. “She is an incredible artist with an incredible color sense, so this was not a case of her saying: ‘Oh, I want it to be creamy with some bone tones. This was ‘which out of the 300 shades of bone do we want and why?’” Wiggins recounts.
Wiggins was up for the challenge. “I love this kind of specificity,” she admits. A self-taught designer who got her start in advertising before embarking on a career in design, Wiggins is known for interiors that are drenched in color and rich in texture, always with a distinct lived-in patina thanks to a careful selection of vintage furniture and art. In fact, she ran an antique shop for several years in North Fork, Long Island, which now serves as an arsenal for her various design projects. She describes the neutral-toned apartment as an exercise in precision and restraint. “For me, this is minimal,” she quips.
To develop the palette for the three-bedroom prewar apartment, Wiggins sought advice from color expert Eve Ashcraft, who has counseled clients ranging from Martha Stewart to blue-chip architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Together, they studied the home’s exposure to natural light: strong and direct in the bright south-facing primary bedroom, and dimmer and more diffuse in the living and dining room looking northwest. “We spent a lot of time thinking about how the light and shadows would change over the course of the day,” says Kenny, who tore down the walls of several smaller interior rooms to open up the kitchen and adjacent library to west-facing windows. “And how that would contribute to the sensation of being in the apartment.”
They landed on a two-tone palette in subtle variations of white, gray, and barely there pale green for the kitchen, living room, dining room, and primary bedroom. “There’s a beautiful dustiness to all the tones,” Wiggins says of the hues, which have the muted quality of a vintage photograph. “All of the finishes are really dry and thirsty and flat.”
From there, they began to build up the secondary tones. “We identified this sour green velvet early on as our accent,” says Wiggins, who used the fabric to upholster the living room sofa. She explains that the homeowners chose it for its similarity to a beloved ottoman in their previous home. “We called it the family fabric,” she adds. She incorporated the same shade in various floral-patterned accents in the living room: a William Morris wallpaper in the hidden wet bar; a vintage wrought-iron bench upholstered in a Clarence House print next to the fireplace; and Pierre Frey throw pillows resting on the sofa.