Caroline’s In/Animate Collections

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Caroline
Location: Upper West Side, NYC
Size: 1,500 square feet
Years lived in: 21 years

Trying to sum up Caroline’s home in a few short paragraphs is akin to putting on a straightjacket before taking a ballet class. Caroline is a native New Yorker. She’s always lived within a 10-block area on the Upper West Side. She is a dentist who inherited her father’s patients — including many well-known artists with whom she barters her trade. She likes to travel and she is a self-identified collector.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
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The front door was stripped as part of the renovations. (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

That being said, her life is an adventure. And it’s not limited to the time Caroline spends offering her dental services in small villages in Nepal, or her trans-Siberian rail trips with her 79 year-old mom. She has created a home that evokes outdoor living, is full of exotic creatures, and is a shrine to the road less traveled.

Caroline bought her condo over 20 years ago and since then has acquired a couple of neighboring units as well. It was only six years ago that she decided to renovate her space. She borrowed one bedroom from the the adjacent apartment and added it to her existing two bedrooms. She tore down the walls of one of her original bedrooms to create a spacious dining room. The adjacent studio is for her pets and the occasional guest.

Caroline spent four years researching and sourcing every single material necessary for the eventual conversion. She then handed over her design to an architect to get the plans drawn up and approved, and began a long standing relationship with a contractor who spent a year working with Caroline, brought her croissants for their morning meetings, and always answered the phone when she called!

The renovation took a year, during which Caroline lived next door with three parrots, two turtles, and one iguana. The laying of a new bamboo floor forced Caroline to review her collections and reassess. Clearly, there are many artifacts, sculptures, religious figures, folk pieces, headdresses, cameras and books that made the cut! As of now, Caroline claims she has stopped collecting.

Caroline inherited the collecting gene from her parents. Her dad would gather banal urban detritus and use it to decorate the Christmas tree every year (imagine a tree covered in abandoned pens). And her mom preferred to collect naturally occurring elements — rocks and shells, leaves and lint and decorate the house with them.

And no object is too big to domesticate! In the early 90’s Caroline enlisted movers to hoist her large Mexican dining table up 10 floors, via the outside of the building. They did it in the middle of the night and if anyone noticed, they didn’t mention it. More recently, a group of “strong guys” carried her agate countertop (500 lbs.) up 10 flights of stairs because it would not fit in the elevator.

The apartment’s incredible eastern and southern exposures and the new open floor plan mean that the space does not feel overwhelming or claustrophobic. Caroline has a unique approach to life, and an unfailing spirit. Her home is just one of many testaments to those facts!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My style: Modern eclectic

Favorite Element: Kitchen countertop — agate

Biggest Challenge: Living with 3 parrots, 1 iguana, 2 tortoises in a studio during renovation!

What Friends Say: “Wow,” “Holy Shit!”

Biggest Embarrassment: none

Proudest DIY: Designer renovation. Planned the entire new layout of the apartment and then had architect draw up the plans

Biggest Indulgence: Kitchen countertop

Best advice: Take your time, research.


Contractor: Dragon Purlija 917.587.9024

(Images: Jill Slater)

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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