‘70s Minimalism in NYC

‘70s Minimalism in NYC

‘70s Minimalism in NYC


Thought mod couldn’t meet minimalism? Think again. Homepolish designer Ross Cooper shares how he channeled the glam decade into this posh New York City pad.

Photos by Lindsay Brown

When designer Ross Cooper was blessed with clients unafraid of high glamour, he had to run with it. The result is an apartment that brings the maximalist patterns of the ‘70s to life tempered with the minimalist touches of now—wild wallpaper, 3-D artwork, and refined glamour even in the baby’s room (how many tots do you know with a Lucite crib?). We’ll let him explain how he grounded the retro vibe in sleek modernism.

From day one, we knew that the 1970s would be our through-line. The initial ideas we formulated were a bit preppier and even traditional, but as I was working with the clients, we realized quickly that the couple was actually keen on a more retro style that was fresher, more modern, and fitting for their personalities.

Before I entered the picture, the clients had lived in this 1-bed, 1-bath before buying the neighboring apartment and combining the spaces. As part of that renovation, they redid their master bathroom and built a brand-new kitchen. I was very lucky that they picked tasteful, neutral finishes, as it gave us a clean palette to build off and didn’t limit any of our design concepts.

I always aim to strike a balance in the spaces I create. I don’t like anything to look “over-designed.” So even though we had this retro concept, I never wanted it to look thematic. It was just a through-line that inspired the eclectic elements we chose. After all, this is a contemporary apartment lived in by a modern family, so it has to reflect how they want to live.

We picked pieces that were either authentic to the era or felt complimentary to it, whether in shape, texture, or color. A few key decisions we made early on like that crazy bold foyer wallpaper by Matthew Williamson and a John Dickinson-style plaster table grounded the project in a very specific mood. Jill and Dave also love the art of American photographer Slim Aarons, whose work we used in two places.

I wanted people to enter the apartment and feel like they were walking into a jewel box with that wild jungle paper, but I knew it had to be balanced with more timid moments, too. We kept a lot of levity and airiness throughout, both in the colors and forms. What we ended up with was a space I feel like Slim Aarons might photograph today.

We wallpapered the playroom in a raffia texture (which is popular for Mid-Century spaces), but we chose a striking bright blue vinyl so it felt contemporary (and was durable). We made those decisions very thoughtfully—how do we mix and match elements that feel modern but keep with the overarching design concept?

The couple was willing to purchase so many vintage pieces—most of the significant furniture pieces we bought were Mid-Century antiques—and they lend so much character to the home. Some people fear the added challenges that can come with buying vintage, but they embrace it. From the get-go, they would give me ideas and I would build off of them and elevate them—it felt collaborative and natural and worked perfectly for us.

The home’s art was very much a collaborative effort. I would share my broadstroke ideas and then we would hone in on the styles that resonated most with the couple. In some places, I intuitively knew exactly what felt right, like the abstract black and white painting above the sofa and the origami koi fish in the entry, because they fit perfectly with my concept for the space and made dramatic statements without pulling focus from anywhere else. But, I have to give my clients credit for finding two amazing Slim Aarons photographs that ended up influencing other decisions we made.

In the bedroom, we already had our soft pink accents picked out and the clients found this gorgeous botanical painting with a touch of pink that brought a sense of harmony to the whole room.

Jill and Dave are extraordinary people. When they shared the news of their pregnancy midway through the project, I knew I had to give them an extraordinary nursery to match.

I wanted the space to be visually stimulating for the baby but also happy, bright, and mature for everyone else to enjoy. Working off the vibe we had already crafted, the nursery ended up being such a cool, mod space.

We started with elements that were period authentic—the vintage Milo Baughman rocking chair (reupholstered in a super graphic jacquard fabric by Kravet that coordinated with the black and white from the art above the crib) is one of the more unique pieces a client has ever let me convince them to buy. From there, I found elements that felt ‘70s without being too overt, such as the overblown floral rug in unusual colors, the deco-inspired floor lamp, and the crib with lucite rails.

These felt like natural complements to the aura of the space but were just updated enough that the room doesn’t look like an issue of Architectural Digest from 1974. I love that because we didn’t go with a juvenile design, the room is cool enough to grow with baby using some minor changes as he gets older.

In the end, the home embodies an eclectic vibe centered around ‘70s mod style, but still totally today. The husband was very funny because he added this techy kick to so much of what we did. Every lightbulb and every window shade is controlled by a smartphone app—that was his pet project.

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