When my boyfriend, Andrew Fry, and I bought our Manhattan apartment in 2007, the space was totally raw. You could see through to the floor below. Originally the building was owned by Western Union, and it was built in 1884 by Henry J. Hardenbergh, who designed the Dakota and the Plaza Hotel. There were pneumatic tubes in the basement that connected to City Hall and around Manhattan.
We met with a dozen architects, which I now realize was crazy. The whole time I was thinking I should call Oliver Freundlich, a partner at , a Brooklyn design firm. We've known each other since college, but at first I didn't want to hire a friend. Eventually I realized I did—I needed to do this with someone who has a common frame of reference. The kitchens we liked most were not actually designed to be seen. We ended up creating one that's supposed to be at the back of a French or English manor home. I was trying to make something authentic to an experience that may not even be real today—but it would be nice if parts of it were.
Our apartment is not a typical private residence. My mother and sister and I run an event design and production firm, , and I entertain at home a couple of times a week. Either Andrew and I are having a quiet dinner by ourselves, or we have 20 guests. A lot of my work involves taking practical aspects of entertaining and making them beautiful. If you do that, you don't need to add a bunch of fancy design elements. We applied this principle to the kitchen. The white tiles on the walls, for example, are relatively cheap and utilitarian, but you can do something interesting with them.
The kitchen was built from scratch in six months. The ceilings are 13 feet high. Instead of overhead cabinets, we installed open shelves to create more air and space. At the same time, part of the ceiling drops down over the sink and countertops, making you feel sheltered while you cook.
Andrew and I use the kitchen more than any other room in the house. It's just big enough that we can hang out and be cozy. But because of how it's designed we've been able to serve a seated dinner for 50 out of it. Everything about the kitchen is efficient—the way the refrigerator is positioned in relation to the island, the extra counter space next to the sink. The appliances are part of Electrolux's Icon Professional and Designer series. Ideally, the room should be twice the size, considering how we use it. But this kitchen punches way above its weight.