Gone are the days of boring beige model apartments: Over the past few years, top developers have turned to elite designers to outfit model units in New York's most prestigious buildings. There was Kelly Behun's art-filled aerie in Rafael Viñoly's towering 432 Park, then Brad Ford's "living showroom" at Shigeru Ban's Cast Iron House, Matter's hip apartment in Brooklyn's The Standish, and many, many more. The latest example? Designer Bennett Leifer's apartment on the 13th floor of One Hundred Barclay, the storied Lower Manhattan tower (which also boasts a penthouse outfitted by Ford and the neighborhood's largest amenities space at over 40,000 square feet). A colorful expression of Leifer's cheerful style, the space bucks the notion of a model unit needing to serve as a sort of blank canvas for prospective buyers.
Bennett Leifer's New Apartment in One Hundred Barclay Is Proof That the Days of Boring Model Units Are Over
The designer devises a colorful oasis in Lower Manhattan's most prestigious new address—featuring brands close to his heart
As Leifer sees it, the arrangement is a win-win. "These top-tier developers have such a high level of buyer that they want to see things that relate to how they want to live," the designer explains. "How can they emphasize the great layers of the room? From my experience, it's been about creating a branding moment."
That "moment" involves showing off the space, of course, but also touting a lifestyle—that which the type of buyer who would hire a top designer would have. It's also a smart way to present the space in ways a developer (or stager) might not have imagined. "A great designer sees what other people call challenges as opportunities," Leifer says. "What I think developers gain from working with designers over stagers is that they can accentuate parts of the building that others wouldn't necessarily see as highlights. For example, at One Hundred Barclay, there's that little office area and that was initially a kind of overlooked alcove, but when we walked through I said, 'Thats a whole overlooked room.'"
Of course, as you read this, you've likely realized one other obvious advantage to developers hiring designers: press. Giving designers free rein to create inspiring apartments turns an otherwise transactional space into one ripe for coverage. In the instance of One Hundred Barclay, this benefit was even more pronounced, since Leifer's design was a collaboration with Domino magazine and its new venture, Domino Residence, which pairs designers with model apartments in exchange for coverage in the magazine or online.
Leifer at the apartment's dining table, with a de Gournay wall panel as a backdrop.