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Going Gray

Martha Stewart Living, September 2005

Everything has its place. That phrase comes to mind as one enters the New York City apartment of Martha Stewart Living Creative Director Eric Pike. Wandering through rooms bathed in hues inspired by birch bark, driftwood, and beach rocks, it's easy to notice what isn't here -- stacks of books, piles of mail, the clutter of daily life. Instead there are tranquil spaces, carefully considered from their moldings to their floorboards, rooms that speak of an owner who has realized the virtues of going gray.

For Pike, buying the apartment in 2001 marked the beginning of a project long in coming. "I wasn't going to buy until I could find the right place," he says. And so he rented a small one-bedroom apartment for sixteen years. The space that finally motivated him to move was the top floor of an 1840s Federal-style townhouse on a historic block. He purchased it despite the fact that it needed a good deal of repair. Working with New York City architect Richard Perry, Pike set out to make the apartment his own.

"Eric knew what he wanted," Perry says. "He would provide me with inspirational images, and my job was to extract information from them and apply it to the rooms." The goal was to create a space that was fitting for a landmark home, but also contemporary and livable. Pike and Perry, admirers of the architecture of Thomas Jefferson, took lessons from Monticello, which famously celebrated classic design while incorporating then-state-of-the-art conveniences.

Pike's collection of Swedish furniture from the Gustavian period (1772 to 1809), as well as pieces inspired by that era, infuse the rooms with their refined, spare qualities. "I like the neoclassical forms and the sculptural lines combined with rustic painted finishes," Pike says. "They have no unnecessary embellishment -- there's a purity in that." He decided to upholster all of the living room furniture in a single gray linen, which unifies the pieces and feels modern despite being an old decorating practice.

The gray color scheme also has its roots in Swedish design, but Pike's use of it was more about creating a calming environment than keeping with tradition. "I spend my days refining stories and ideas with different color palettes and stylistic sensibilities. I like to come home to something more neutral," he says. "It allows me to unwind." The various gray tones are soft and varied: In the floorboards (wide planks that were bleached, then stained) and the upholstery, blue and beige notes mingle, blending to form a range of natural grays. Hints of silver, in mercury-glass, candlesticks, light fixtures, and hardware, add glimmer; touches of beige, in lampshades and a living room mantel, provide warmth.

Though he calls himself "not quite a minimalist," Pike prefers to live without a lot of things occupying his space. He does own a lot of things, however, which added another challenge: the need to maximize storage. He sacrificed a few feet in every room to allow for deep doorways (one of several Jeffersonian touches) that contain hidden, paneled closets, each devoted to specific belongings. Such a precise fit raises a question for Pike. "I've been collecting for years, and I've made everything work in this space," he says. "What will happen if I keep collecting?" Only time will tell.


Pike wanted a low bed that wouldn't block light from the window; he and Perry came up with this design, inspired by Jean-Michel Frank.

Space in the kitchen was tight, and Pike wanted to keep the counters as clear as possible. Cabinets, therefore, were designed to conceal appliances while keeping them handy; electrical outlets are hidden under the upper cabinets.


Dining Room
With its coffered ceiling, which conceals support beams, this room lacks the height of the rest of the apartment; the skylight, however, opens up the space. A candle lantern hangs above the dining table. The symmetry of the almost-square room reflects the Jeffersonian influence. Pike sought a square pedestal table to complete this room; finding none, he designed one with Perry.

Perhaps the most contemporary room in the apartment, the bathroom is luxurious yet basic, with clean lines and an abundance of natural light provided by a skylight. Pike decided on a glass shower without a door to make the room feel as spacious as possible.


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