A Designer Combined Neighboring West Village Apartments to Create the Haven of Her Dreams

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As an interior designer, Leigh Kirby Klein is respectful of her clients’ personal space. Unless, of course, that client happens to be her husband. “I’ve never worked with a tougher client,” laughs the AD PRO Directory designer, for whom the line between designer and wife was blurred a few years ago when the couple purchased a home—well, technically two—in a newly built residential building in the West Village.

For Leigh, it was an agreement with compromise. “I love older buildings, whereas my husband doesn’t. It seemed like we couldn’t agree on anything,” recalls the principal of New York City–based interior design practice Weatherleigh Interiors. The one thing they did see eye to eye on was the price. With the combined cost of apartments being less than an actual two-bedroom alternative, it was clearly too good an opportunity to pass up. Still, combining a studio and a one-bedroom with a public hallway in between was easier said than done. It meant buying part of the hallway and designing a new front entry—and ensuring both apartments presented like a cohesive whole. Then, there was the problem of the flooring. The hallway had slate, and the apartments, white oak planks. “We searched everywhere to find flooring that matched the existing white oak, to no avail. Fortunately, the building contractors had a small pile left over that was just the right amount to finish off the new foyer,” she shares.

Of course, there were other challenges as well—the lighting in particular was case in point. Many pieces had been ordered from overseas, or from around the States, but they were so architecturally unique that finding bulbs that fit proved next to impossible. “Our poor electrician had to scour the city to find options that would fit and also be compatible with dimmers,” Leigh recounts. One iron floor lamp, shipped in from Paris, was entirely rusted on arrival, likely due to contact with seawater. The vendor ended up shipping a new one, but “having already waited six or seven months, plus three more for the new one to arrive, everything just ended up being very, very delayed.”

Despite the challenges, there was a clear vision for the home. “I wanted the condo to be a sanctuary from the busy streets of New York, like a hotel or art gallery that we could lose ourselves in,” reflects the designer, who sourced the furniture, lighting, and art from Belgium, France, Australia, and most everywhere in between. Sourcing considered pieces was something she was passionate about. Her husband? Not so much. “He is very pragmatic and concerned with function, and lacks any sort of vision when it comes to design,” she chuckles. “He would have been happy to walk into RH and buy an entire floor’s worth of merchandise. Don’t get me wrong; I love RH, but copying a catalog, product for product, would certainly have put a damper on my creativity!”

There’s a European slant to the interior design, with glimmers of wabi-sabi and Japandi styles peeping through here and there. “I took a minimalist approach and put together a design language that I think is seen more frequently in Europe than in the States,” observes Leigh. She used the white oak flooring as her starting point, and kept adding from there. All the while, she exercised restraint with decor, choosing to highlight the bedroom and bathroom walls with Venetian plaster and Moroccan plaster (Tadelakt).

At roughly 800 square feet, the primary suite is a minor miracle by New York City standards. “We managed to fit a king-size bed, a sitting area, and a small office alcove, in addition to a full-size en suite bathroom,” shares Leigh, who achieved what she did by absorbing every last square inch of what was once the studio (the kitchen that once stood there was removed and replaced with a 14-foot-long wall of cabinetry that allowed for ample storage).

The apartment finally feels like home for Leigh, her husband, and their eight-year-old golden retriever, Walter. It may not be the historic home she had once hoped for, but with so much character to go around, it’s probably even better.

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