John Douglas Eason. Photo: Felix Kunze.

Designed by John Douglas Eason

Photography by Jody Kivort

Designing a small space is never easy, but add a large collection of antiques and the process becomes even trickier. For such a project, a designer with a keen eye and a knack for editing is essential. Luckily for an etiquette expert and writer with a new 700 square-foot apartment on New York’s Upper West Side and a bounty of family heirlooms, he already had just the designer in his Rolodex—his old friend John Douglas Eason. Following a brief renovation, Eason was brought in to give the interiors a fresh, yet collected look.

The client’s collection, which included everything from antique furnishings and modern art to carnival chalkware, guided Eason’s design. “The real challenge was how to take all of these disparate pieces and create a look that's really something different from what he's had before?” says Eason. The key was the cohesive palette of soft creams and gray, as well as the addition of a few streamlined pieces, including the living room’s modern Cassina cocktail table.

Choosing the right layout was also crucial for fitting in larger pieces, such as the antique cabinet in the living room. Eason also tailored the setting to his client’s lifestyle, creating a seating arrangement conducive to entertaining. The second bedroom serves double duty as a guest room and home office thanks to a Murphy bed and built-in desk. Eason made the most of every inch, giving the client’s pieces room to shine. “There's nothing that really fights anything in this apartment,” says Eason. “What's nice is that every piece stands out, but every piece also blends in.”

Eason made the most of the living room, carving out space for entertaining as well as a small dining area. The designer chose a transitional sofa that paired nicely with his client’s antique secretary and wouldn’t overwhelm the room. The artwork above the secretary is an oil by modernist painter Robert Thomas Barbee.

“My favorite room is really the living room,” says Eason. “It's just a combination of all of these antique pieces and then this very modern cocktail table. I love the juxtaposition of the old and the new.”

In the dining area, works by Robert Thomas Barbee hang above a Victorian spinet in the style of a Renaissance chest. The musical works had been removed before the client purchased it in the 1980s. A set of abstract drawings by Robert Hickey, part of a series of 300 nearly identical pieces, are displayed by the antique dining set.

The newly-renovated kitchen complements the classic aesthetic of the apartment. A mirrored backsplash brightens the petite space and glass front cabinets serve as display cases for blue-and-white china.

Eason transformed a dated armchair and ottoman into a tailored focal point in the living room. “It was an old piece and, quite honestly, if you'd ever told me that it was something I would use I would have laughed at you,” admits Eason. “We covered it in a gray flannel, and it's just beautiful.”

“We really neutralized the bedroom by painting all of the walls and even the brick a beautiful pale gray,” says Eason. The trim is painted the same shade, but with a glossier finish. “It makes the room feel taller and a bit bigger, unifying the whole space,” Eason explains. He placed a  combination of the client’s Indian rugs on the floor and a 19th-century cherry Tennessee sugar chest serves as a bedside table.

The four poster bed is dressed with the client’s antique coverlet and floral pillow. Eason added the rectangular pillow, explaining “It’s just something to pull everything together and make it feel a little more modern and current.”

The marble-clad bathroom also uses the same palette of soft grays that are showcased throughout the rest of the apartment. A niche was added from reclaimed space in the wall to give the compact shower extra storage.

Colorful chalkware carnival prizes from the 1920s or ‘30s line a bookcase in the office/guestroom.

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