Minneapolis interior designer Bruce Kading has put his talents to work on a handsome historic brownstone in the heart of New York City. And after a three-year overhaul, the seven-story jewel is ready for its close-up. “This is surely one of my dream projects,” he notes. “It’s a rare chance to preserve history and tell a story.”
The clients also own a home in the Twin Cities as well as properties in Florida and Europe. When they purchased this 1850s row house near Gramercy Park, it was divided up into apartments. Kading and his team completed a full-scale renovation — gutting, preserving and refurbishing the space inside and out — to make it a single-family residence once more.
The idea was to create a home that looked layered over time, mixing antiques and period details with modern-day amenities. The living and dining rooms are airy and bright, painted a steely blue green (Sherwin Williams Escape Gray, to be exact). Completed with dark woods and a gilt mirror, the look is elegant and polished. “The dining room is my favorite space,” explains Kading. “It has enough zing to it, but it looks like it’s been there forever.”
And while the aesthetic is New York chic, much of the custom furnishings came from Minnesota. The many vintage light fixtures were sourced from Antique Manor and Architectural Antiques, while the handsomely aged oriental rugs were handpicked from Legacy Looms and Woven Arts. And the custom cabinetry and woodwork throughout the home were produced by Tischler Wood of Avon. “I find the craftsmanship is better in Minnesota,” Kading says. “It’s a sensitivity to quality.”
Walking from room to room, there is much to admire. A massive brass and glass chandelier dangles down five stories, adding great drama to the seven-story stairway. In the kitchen, an 18th century French fireback adds a European pedigree to the stovetop. The antique mirrored backsplash reflects light around the room with its quatrefoil motif, while the textured tin ceiling above lends a vintage charm. The center island is fitted with a striking pewter top that will gracefully age over time. “The first scratch may shock you,” Kading warns, “but then little by little, it develops the most beautiful patina.”
Because the owner is a bit of a history buff, not one but two sets of presidential portraits adorn the walls. Federalist-style mirrors bring historical glamour, and the very same Schumacher silk lampas fabric that Jackie Kennedy used in the White House has a special place in the library, where it covers a favorite pillow.
Collecting antique clocks is another passion, and so Kading has placed them throughout the residence. Several tall case clocks offer a warm welcome near the entryway. The antique ones that sit along the living-room mantle are set and balanced once a year by experts brought in from Europe. The clock in the dining room, meanwhile, plays organ music.
Situated on the second floor above the tree-lined street, the master bedroom is a quiet retreat. A lower-level game room is a favorite for friends and family. And the in-house theater gives the owners’ eight grandchildren great delight.
But the biggest surprise is up on the top floor, where Kading created a stylish rooftop escape. With nearly 360-degree views of the city, it feels like a secret treehouse right in the middle of Manhattan. The historic church next door provides a dramatic backdrop, its massive Romanesque tower looming large. When the homeowner learned that the seven clocks on the towers were no longer in working order, he offered to cover the cost of repairing them. But he had a request: At least once a year, they have to play Jingle Bells and Stairway to Heaven — a bit of philanthropy coupled with some playful spirit. It’s just one of the many wonderful surprises Kading encountered while building this Manhattan beauty with Minnesota might.