This article is part of our Design special section on how the recent push for diversity is changing the way the world looks.
At age 24, Shalini Misra took her first international flight from India, destination Manhattan. “Everything is quite low-rise where I grew up, and coming to New York was a real eye-opener, with the tall buildings and all that,” she said in a phone interview. “I just fell in love with the skyline.”
When Ms. Misra, 56, a London-based architect and interior designer, and her husband, Rajeev Misra, had the opportunity to buy a two-bedroom pied-à-terre in Manhattan some 20 years later, it ended up being on the 38th floor of the Bloomberg Tower on Lexington Avenue. So Ms. Misra said she designed the interiors in a way that celebrates the altitude: “I wanted to amplify the idea of being so high up and floating in the clouds.” It helped that the apartment had floor-to-ceiling windows and overlooked Central Park and the Four Seasons Hotel building by I.M. Pei.
Ms. Misra studied architecture in India and urban planning at Columbia, before earning a master’s in virtual reality in London, where she now lives part time. Her current career developed somewhat by happy accident. A friend asked her if she could help design her home, and she ended up loving the process. “I didn’t realize interiors is such an interesting, knowledge-based profession. A lot of my inspiration comes from different cultures, traveling around the world,” she said. She tries to absorb the expertise of the craftspeople she meets along the way. “My office is also quite multicultural, with people from Hong Kong, India, Turkey, Iran.”
In the New York residence, the sky-and-cloud scheme takes many forms, including a custom abstract cloud-pattern rug from Joseph Carini Carpets in the living area, floors stained a pale brownish gray to mimic a cloudy day, and a light blue silk paper from Vescom that covers most of the walls.
The apartment’s introductory gesture is a gold-toned basket-weave wood veneer by Maya Romanoff that covers the coat-closet doors and is repeated on the nearby ceiling. The metallics pick up the light from the living area at dusk, bringing the sunset into the entryway. The connecting hallway has a console by the British designer Paul Kelley that takes inspiration from the boxy, wall-mounted pieces of the American artist Donald Judd; its orange accents echo those of the custom geometric rug by CC-Tapis.
The centerpiece of the living room is a suede-covered hammock picked up at Ralph Pucci. Designed by Jim Zivic, it is suspended by stainless steel chains from the ceiling. “It really is the hot seat of the apartment. Everyone who comes here wants to sit there,” Ms. Misra said. Her teenage daughter, Roshni, commandeers it when she has homework to do. It is also the perfect perch from which to take in the sunsets.
In the kitchen, the tall, almost exaggerated back of the banquette serves multiple purposes. It emphasizes verticality, a device used throughout the space to augment the home’s floating feeling. Also, Ms. Misra’s son, Rohan, is about six-foot-four, so it is partially to accommodate him. “It’s a small apartment so we also needed to put in a lot of storage wherever we could,” the designer said. The seat of the banquette opens up, and the kitchen table legs contain shelves. The whole wall behind the banquette is storage.
In the primary bedroom, bespoke cherry blossom-patterned wallpaper from a favorite source, the London-based company Fromental, is hand-painted and hand embroidered. Chests of drawers were customized with blue leather to combine them seamlessly with the blues in the bedroom scheme. The second bedroom has two queen-size beds, with a space in between for books or whatever, as well as places to charge phones. The floating desk, also by Mr. Kelley, keeps things off the floor.
Ms. Misra is a longtime collector of art as well as furniture. A work by the famous Indian painter Ram Kumar is hung on the wall between the living and dining areas, another by the renowned Indian artist K.G. Subramanyan sits on the dresser in primary bedroom, while hexagonal paintings by Inez Wijnhorst, a Dutch painter who lives and works in Portugal, are mounted on the wall in the second bedroom.
Ms. Misra likes to use local artisans and designers when possible. The dining chairs (Jonathan Adler), lighting fixtures (Apparatus and David Weeks) and bedroom dresser (Victoria Hagan) are among the pieces sourced around the city, where Ms. Misra wishes she could spend more time. (Roshni, however, is currently in school in London.) She does plan to keep an office in New York beginning in May, and has just launched an online shop called Curio, which offers furniture, rugs, lighting and accessories found in — and inspired by — her global travels.
And while the Misras have multiple residences, this is the one they enjoy the most. “Our house in London has five floors,” Ms. Misra said. “Things keep getting lost.” She added, “Our house in Delhi is, like, 20,000 square feet. It’s massive. So this is really our favorite place. We are all very connected when we are here. We play a lot of board games. We play a lot of card games.”
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