Tour This Wacky and Wonderful New York City Home. Art collector Nancy Magoon’s Upper East Side apartment is filled with blue-chip pieces and one-of-a-kind design. By Hannah Martin, Photography by Genevieve Garruppo, October 14, 2022
I like new,” art collector Nancy Magoon says from the pristine New York City apartment she moved into last October. She’s perched on a mint-condition magenta Thierry Lemaire sofa and surrounded by just-purchased contemporary art—a colorful abstraction commissioned from Elizabeth Neal (the granddaughter of legendary painter Alice Neal), a Hustle Coat by Nick Cave, and the pièce de résistance: a large 2016 painting by Tracey Emin that reads, beneath purple splatters, “There Is No Warmth.” It’s an amusing and somehow fitting sentiment for a room that could easily feel like a cold white box, but somehow, it doesn’t.
Magoon grew up in New York City. As the daughter of real estate developer Jack Parker, owner of the Parker Meridian hotel, she never much needed her own place in the Big Apple. But after the family off-loaded the hotel five years ago, Magoon, who has lived primarily in Aspen, where she serves on the board of the Aspen Art Museum, wanted to establish a New York home base. She wanted to spend Aspen’s off season—October, November, April—there, and perhaps a more significant chunk of time down the road. Her checklist was straightforward: “I wanted it to be contemporary, I wanted it to be colorful, and I wanted a place I could buy some more art for.”
Once she found the perfect blank-slate apartment—“nobody has ever lived here,” she explains—Magoon tapped Andrew Sheinman of the New York–based design firm Pembrooke & Ives to handle the interiors. She’d fallen in love with another place the firm had decorated in the neighborhood. Really, it was the wall treatments that had gotten her attention, which she replicated here. For many, white walls might be an afterthought, but for Magoon, achieving that perfect canvas for her collection was crucial. In the living room, they went with a high-gloss white, while in other hallways and the bedrooms, they created a textural effect with plaster, working with Fresco Decorative Painting. Each room had to be fully sealed off for a month to get the finish just right.
In addition to those wall treatments, Magoon had a few other practical requests: As a regular entertainer, she needed a flexible space that was primed for hosting. The answer was a wide-open living area where cocktail hour could easily flow into a seated dinner (her custom Sebastian Errazuriz table accommodates 10). Sheinman and senior designer Melanie Stack, who worked closely on the project, added pocket doors to the kitchen, should she wish to have a more formal event with a chef. And they jazzed up the bar area with a Jean Prouvé–inspired blue disc motif. But Magoon’s biggest requests were concerning closet space—which she needed quite a bit of. (“I’m a total clothes horse,” she laments.) They decided to dedicate a full room to the job, which they coated in high-gloss lacquer and filled with plenty of drawers and hanging space.
With the nuts and bolts in place, Magoon began working closely with the designers to bring together art and furniture for the space. Under their guidance, Magoon collected works of design with the same intensity as she had always collected art. “Almost every piece we showed her was unique,” explains Sheinman of the range of vintage finds and contemporary commissions. From art-design star Misha Kahn, she got a rug for the living room and an eye-popping headboard for the primary bedroom. They snagged a Studio 65 Mela Morsicata—an apple with a bite taken out of it—for the bedroom. And for the moody dining area, a custom Sebastian Errazuriz tree table was surrounded by Max Lamb chairs and bookended by totally bonkers Hass Brothers seats that look like giant tongues. “I’ve outgrown beige and black for the most part,” Magoon explains. “After you live with that for a while, you crave something new and exciting.”
That’s not to say Magoon’s life, until this point, has not been exciting. She recalls with glee the time in Miami, decades ago, when a gallerist asked her to gather up some socialite friends so that Andy Warhol could paint their portraits in the wee hours of the morning. That work is in her Aspen home, but a vessel shaped like Warhol’s head, created by the artist Goshka Macuga sits on the colorful console in her entryway, facing off with an early text-based artwork by Richard Prince. Interesting pairings such as this one abound in the house, where, in the kitchen, a watermelon sculpture by Hank Willis Thomas sits on the counter, in view of Catherine Opie’s solemn photograph of a graffiti-covered Robert E. Lee statue. In the primary bedroom, her out-of-this-world Misha Kahn headboard is paired with a Tracey Emin quilt, snagged early in the artist’s career, used as a bedspread. “That was just for the photos,” she insists of the highly collectable work.
“It’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek,” says Sheinman of the never-too-serious apartment, a thread of humor running through even the smallest details. In the powder room, for example, a small Tom Wesselmann artwork sits with some hand towels Magoon had custom-embroidered to say This napkin is for show Please use your shirt. “No one ever uses them,” Magoon playfully gripes.
When it comes to buying art, Magoon has a clear strategy, honed over decades of collecting. “I’m never going to buy the most beautiful painting—the vase of flowers. It doesn’t appeal to me. I look for something that makes me pause and think. I believe that art is political, whether you like to hear it or not. And it’s the things that make me ask, ‘What did the artist mean? What was the artist’s intention?’ That’s what speaks to me.” Perhaps it’s safe to say that, when it comes to decorating a home, she follows a similar logic.
A colorful console by Hervé Van der Straeten makes an impact in the entry, along with a Jeff Zimmerman chandelier, a vase in the shape of Andy Warhol’s head by Goshka Macuga, and Richard Prince text artwork.
A painting by Elizabeth Neal and a rug by Misha Kahn, both of which were commissioned for the space, set the tone in the living room, which also features a sofa by Thierry Lemaire, a pair of chairs by Thomas Pheasant, a cocktail table by Slash Objects, and side tables by Hélène de Saint Lager (left) and Oskar Peet and Sophie Mensen (right).
- rt: © 2022 Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Kader Attia © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
A petite dining area in the corner of the living room features a game table by Chapter & Verse and chairs by Maarten Baas. The wood mask in the corner is by Kader Attia, and the painting is by Tracey Emin.
- Art: Nari Ward. Autunno, 2019, Bertozzi & Casoni.
Magoon’s dining room has a sort of dark humor, outfitted with a custom tree dining table by Sebastian Errazuriz, chandelier from Rogan Gregory, and polystyrene dining chairs by Max Lamb. The two Monster Chairs were commissioned from the Haas Brothers. Behind the table is a console by Simon Johns, a mixed-media artwork by Nari Ward, and a sculpture by Bertozzi & Casoni.
- Art: Catherine Opie.
Magoon commissioned the cabinet in her kitchen from Luke Proctor to ensure she had plenty of storage space. The eat-in kitchen table by Patrick Naggar is surrounded by colorful chairs by Emmanuelle Simon (“everyone thinks they look like donuts, but I think they look like Life Savers,” Magoon quips). Art-wise, a photograph by Catherine Opie of the reclaimed and graffiti-covered Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond faces off with a Hank Willis Thomas watermelon sculpture. The custom chandelier is by Gabriel Scott.
A custom Misha Kahn headboard in the primary bedroom is paired with a super-collectable quilt by Tracey Emin. The custom side tables are by Jacque Jarrige.
Across the primary bedroom, a sofa by Pierre Paulin sits with a cocktail table by Roberto Giulio Rida, a bitten apple Mela Morsicata chair by Studio 65, a rare 1950 George Nakashima side table, and a floor lamp by Salvador Dali. The artworks are by Sheila Hicks.
Magoon needed a roomy closet to house her extensive clothing collection, so Pembrooke & Ives dedicated an entire room in the apartment to the task, lacquering the walls and filling it with ample storage and a chandelier by Giopato & Coombes.
A Gordon Parks photograph is the protagonist in this guest bedroom, which also features a 1950s chair by Carlo Hauner and Martin Eisler, and 1970s tulip lamps by Roger Rougier.
A pink ceiling adds flair to the powder room, as do the custom hand towels by Julia B. Linens that are embroidered with the text: “This napkin is for show. Please use your shirt.”