“Doesn’t it look like you’re at the bottom of a crystal-clear ocean?” asks Nick Olsen of the glistening baby blue he selected for a client’s living-room ceiling. “I lobbied hard for that. The walls had this off-white creamy color with a pink undertone, so I just knew it would work.” Such is the killer instinct—and infectious energy—of a designer making a name for himself by working bold colors into just about every project he undertakes. And not just for the fun of it.
Take that blue ceiling, which unites a quirky mix of furnishings and bounces daylight from tall windows to the far side of a 40-foot room. “They’re definitely not afraid of color,” says Olsen of the homeowners, a couple with three kids who commissioned him to infuse life into their 3,540-square-foot, contemporary Manhattan townhouse. There were, of course, parameters. The home’s sheetrock walls and open floor plan would require a certain amount of ingenuity to warm up. And “she didn’t want intense color in every room,” says Olsen of the wife. With so many open, public spaces not clearly defined by partitions or doorways, Olsen couldn’t cover every wall in bold hues. “I didn’t want it to feel enclosed or encumbered,” he says. So he created thoughtful chromatic zones throughout, guided by one particularly useful purchase. “It all started with the carpet. It’s the literal foundation of the entire house. I had some schemes worked up, but I tweaked everything when I found the pale aquamarine–and–Nantucket red Oushak carpet,” he recalls.
In the open living-and-dining room with the blue ceiling, where the carpet resides, furniture with eclectic origins seem to be plucked directly from its color scheme: a French, neoclassical–inspired limed oak desk, a B&B Italia chaise covered in a coral Colefax and Fowler linen, a custom tufted sofa by Luther Quintana Upholstery in blue velvet, plus various side tables, pillows, and vibrantly colored contemporary art.
The same playful elegance pervades the rest of the house. In a children’s bedroom, lemon-yellow ceiling stripes recall parasols in the summer sun, and Scalamandré’s playful La Fenêtre Ouverte fabric (translation: “the open window”) is a fitting addition to twin beds. In the den, which doubles as guest quarters, a bamboo wallcovering is paired with a cushy green linen-velvet daybed and a Japanese folding screen purchased at auction. “This is a sophisticated house, but it also has an ease about it,” Olsen says. “They don’t like anything too formal or fussy with a capital F.”
Stylist: Robert Rufino
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