Inside a Charming Fifth Avenue Home That’s Big on Personality
Until getting married and having a child, veteran fashion editor Dani Stahl had subscribed to the Carrie Bradshaw school of decorating: shoes filled her kitchen cabinets and necklaces adorned her walls. When she and her financier husband David Kirsch purchased a weekend home outside the city four years ago, “I was basically like, ‘What’s a chair?’” she quips. At the time, the couple didn’t have the budget for an interior designer, but Stahl tapped her longtime friend Chiara de Rege, the decorator behind the Carolina Herrera and The Wing flagships, for a few pointers. “She bestowed on me different websites and names, so by the time we got to buying an apartment I had the basic stuff down,” says Stahl.
A native Manhattanite, she knew she wanted to return to the Upper East Side neighborhood she grew up in when she and her husband started looking. Both sets of grandparents lived uptown and Stahl’s alma mater, where the couple plan to send their five-year-old daughter, Sunny, is also nearby. “It’s home,” she says. Beyond geography, there was just one caveat—albeit an unusual one: Stahl harbors an intense elevator phobia. Her husband had visions of an aerie, but “I can’t sign up to walk a million flights for the rest of my life. So we had agreed that the third floor would be our floor. Once you limit your search based on that,” she continues, “there’s only going to be so many that come up.” When they happened upon a listing in a 1960s white brick building along the stretch of Fifth Avenue known as Museum Mile, she wasn’t sure. She had had notions of a classic pre-war six. But Kirsch was sold: the treetop views onto Central Park, the ample space for family living. The apartment would need a gut, but he saw the potential. In hindsight, Stahl admits, “sometimes with me the best things are the ones I’m not obsessed with at first. It quickly grew on me.”
She didn’t need to think twice about who their decorator would be: “Chiara was my first call.” To handle the renovation, De Rege suggested New York–based architect James Sanders, whose colorful resume includes designing actor Molly Ringwald’s apartment, penning the acclaimed early 2000s book Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies, and co-authoring a documentary on the city that received an Emmy Award. The apartment was in its original condition, which is to say, “the 1961 architectural plan, built around the standards and expectations of the long-vanished Mad Men era,” says Sanders, citing a dreary galley kitchen, small bathrooms, and cramped corridors leading to the bedrooms in the rear. He knocked down walls and reconfigured spaces, creating a gracious kitchen that opens onto the living area with a family breakfast nook in between. “The flow is phenomenal,” says Stahl. “All I want to do is entertain.”