Debbie Upgrades to Mid-Century

published May 26, 2010
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Name: Debbie Millman
Location: Chelsea
Size: 1,600 square feet — 2 bedroom with backyard
Years lived in: 16

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
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The view from the upper level of the duplex looking down on the living room. (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Debbie was in the mood for a change but wasn’t sure how to go about it. As Debbie recalls, Susan replied, “Well, if we are going to get new furniture, maybe we should get new floors, and if we get new floors maybe we should get…an entire new everything!” When Debbie asked what she should do with all her old furniture, Susan replied, “Curbside!”

After the initial shock at how little Susan cared for Debbie’s belongings, Debbie was able to move on and go shopping with Susan to acquire a whole new look. The only thing Debbie insisted upon, and the one thing Susan was dead set against, was the brown Eames lounge in the living room. Debbie thought of this chair as the ultimate status acquisition, paving the way for her new mid-century decor. Susan saw it as a cliche and overkill. Debbie didn’t understand this latter perspective until it was too late. Nowadays, it’s relegated to a side room but is the cat’s favorite spot in the house.

A very accomplished graphic designer, Debbie has always collected great art — some homemade, some from friends, and still others sought after and bought. The arrangement and breadth of these provocative and beautiful pieces makes her mid-century upgrade feel balanced and a natural progression for her home.

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Apartment Therapy Survey
Style: What I like to call modern-sexy

Inspiration: Old-school 1950s glamorama

Favorite Element: I have three: the centerpiece of the living room — Aura — is a 6 foot high, 2-tiered Murano glass chandelier from Eurofase which took 9 hours, a rented scaffold and three electricians to install; the floor to ceiling white iridescent Ann Sacks bisazza tiles in the upstairs bathroom; and the rebuilt, reupholstered, vintage, circular three piece sofa upholstered by CJ Delatore using Plush Chenille fabric from Schumacher.

Biggest Challenge: The décor of my apartment before the reno: painted black slate flooring, 4 foot brown shutters, (which, when closed, didn’t let any light in), an ugly door leading to a non-code fire escape smack in the middle of the main living room wall, a Jennifer Convertible sofa my movers had to break to get through the front door in 1994, and a ponderosa-style wooden banister covered in “crackle” paint.

What Friends Say: “Can I live here with you?”

Biggest Embarrassment: My “before” pictures, and the fact that I seriously considered paying to store all my old furniture.

Proudest DIY: My two needlepoint pillows that took me one year each to make.

Biggest Indulgence: Dreamy, totally glamorous custom designed Silk Trading Company drapes in the bedroom.

Best Advice: Buy the best you can afford so that you can buy it once and keep it forever.

Dream Source: Susan Benjamin, my childhood best friend, my inspiration and lifetime decorator.


    • Living Room/Dining Room:
    Celador 24×24 beige terrazzo-like tiles dappled with flecks of seashells from Stone Source
    Rebuilt, reupholstered, vintage, circular three piece sofa upholstered by CJ Delatore using Plush Chenille fabric from Schumacher
    Spectrum area rug designed by Christopher Sharp, from the Rug Company.
    Small coffee table from ABC Carpet and Home
    Gilded standing ashtray from the 1950’s that I found at the 26th street flea market
    Custom designed Eames lounge in cherry wood with “Sahara Sand” leather from the David Allen Gallery
    Vintage Florence Knoll credenza
    Aura glass chandelier from Eurofase
    Pottery Barn Dining Table
    Vintage Walter Cherner Chairs
    Miranda Thomas Simon Pearce Pottery
    Eames Side Tables
    Bookshelves in library area custom-made

    • The Upstairs Bathroom:
    Floor to ceiling white iridescent Ann Sacks bisazza tiles
    Mediterranean Crema 12×12 limestone floor tiles
    Duravit Happy D toilet bowl and sink
    Dornbracht sink faucet and exposed tub/shower system with the sunflower showerhead

    • Master Bedroom:
    Schiffmann King Size Bed
    Custom designed Silk Trading Company drapes
    Wide knot sisal carpet from ABC Carpet & Home
    All furniture besides the bed are Flea Market finds
    Restoration Hardware Lamps

    • Second Bedroom:
    Bo Concept Book Shelves
    Vintage Desk from ABC Carpet & Home outlet factory
    Cristal Cab Hardware throughout house from Simon Hardware

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Images: Jill Slater

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