A Fresh Take on “Mad Men” Style in Manhattan

A Fresh Take on “Mad Men” Style in Manhattan

A Fresh Take on “Mad Men” Style in Manhattan


Designer Alec Holland combines old-school sophistication with contemporary features to create a handsome, art-filled pad in Union Square.

Photos by Daniel Wang

If you find yourself wondering what the fussed-about interiors from Mad Men might translate to today, this Union Square apartment is a special treat for you. Inside the one-bedroom apartment, Mid-Century style thoughtfully mingles with contemporary pieces, thanks to the delicate balance struck by designer Alec Holland—a man with enviable knack for bridging old with new.

“I want my spaces to be modern, luxurious and livable,” he explains. “There’s always a nod to iconic 20th-century design mixed with the new, and I’m constantly reminding myself that the design God is in the details.”

The designer was tasked with inviting more visual interest into a space he describes as “boxy with no real defining style.” Luckily, his client wasn’t afraid to dial things up in terms of design.

“He wanted the his home to have strong showcase style, but was also clear he wanted to be able to relax and be comfortable when he came home at the end of a long day,” Alec reveals.

The challenge was capturing that modern Mad Men feel in a way that feels livable and not too thematic. He started by selecting contemporary pieces, like the navy velvet choice, which offset the old-school sensibility—think an Eames recliner in sleek white leather and a vintage red lacquer Chinoiserie mirror in the entryway. The goal was to keep the rooms uncluttered, yet well-appointed.

“[My client] collects a lot of great art and photography, which always makes a decorator’s job much easier,” Alec says. “We were able to keep a very calm and subtle palette, and let the art do the heavy lifting in terms of wow factor color and pattern.”

In the living room, for instance, bold political pieces mingle with oversized abstract art, which add a pop of color to the room’s many leather and wooden pieces.

In the bedroom, a space Alec describes as “Upper East Side meets New England preppy,” he established a sexy, sophisticated vibe through layers and pattern. Here, blue grasscloth wallpaper clads the wall and stylishly clashes with traditional plaid window treatments. To lend some warmth and texture, Alec selected a velvet tufted bed, a dark rug, and sheepskin throws. And dotting the bed, bold red zebra pillows add a playful pop of color to the handsome space.

The biggest overhaul came in the form of a gut renovation in the bathroom, where Alec established a classic, refined feel. Due to the small space, he looked for opportunities to create an airier vibe, choosing an open shelving vanity and a glass shower door to create the illusion of more space. He also stacked the porcelain wall tiles instead of brick laying them to yield a more contemporary look while also tricking the eye into reading the space as taller. He rounded out the space with a slightly dramatic effect on the floors.

“My client was wary about the dark floor tile at first—he was nervous about black making the room feel smaller, but it doesn’t,” Alec explains. “Instead, it gives a strong sophistication to the little room.”

Very Mad Men, indeed.

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