By Suzanne Charlé | December 2, 2013 | Home & Real Estate
Jeff Pfeifle and David Granville stick to traditional colors when decorating for the holidays. Tufted side chairs surround the table, where a silver candelabrum from John Rosselli Antiques provides a dramatic centerpiece. The antique Chinese buffet, as well as the dining chairs, were purchased at Mecox Gardens.
Some might be surprised that a retail executive who made his mark at trend-driven companies like Old Navy, Banana Republic, and J.Crew (where he was president) would reside in a Classic Seven on the Upper East Side rather than in a sleek downtown loft. But Jeff Pfeifle says he has always been drawn to the area’s period architecture and old-world feel: “I love modern, but I want to live in a prewar building with detailing and character—there’s more warmth and history,” he explains.
When he first saw the apartment on 88th Street off Madison, with an expansive terrace and a working fireplace, he knew “this was the place.” Custom-designed by Sugarman & Berger, co-architects of One Fifth Avenue, one of the first Art Deco towers in the city, the apartment “was, by far, the nicest in the building,” says Pfeifle. “Of course, it had been built for the builder’s mother!” He bought the place as a present to himself for his 40th birthday.
The living room was modernized with the addition of a Circles painting by Marc Humphrey and a David Hicks–style rug purchased in Burma.
Although Pfeifle says he never tires of the traditional layout and iconic views—the sleek curves of the Guggenheim, the gleaming green expanse of the Central Park Reservoir, crowned in the distance by the Eldorado’s golden towers—or even the Paris-style boiserie in the living and dining rooms, Pfeifle and his partner, Dave Granville, decided earlier this year that the apartment needed to look and feel hipper and more modern. Because Pfeifle uses the apartment frequently for fundraising parties for his various charities—he’s currently on the boards of the ASPCA and God’s Love We Deliver—and travels widely, he wasn’t in the mood for an extensive, time-consuming renovation. But he was in the mood to change the entire décor. With his trained eye for color and trend, he saw no need for a decorator.
Moving from a design “that was keeping in period with the apartment,” Pfeifle says he was surprised how transformative a few new pieces could be. The living room was immediately modernized with the addition of a Mark Humphrey painting, Circles, which he saw in an East End restaurant, and a graphic patterned rug purchased during a recent trip to Burma. “The rug, although by an anonymous designer, reminded me of something David Hicks would do,” says Pfeifle, who covered the classic herringbone parquet floors with it. The painting and rug served as catalyst for changing the rest of the room’s décor.
Holiday table setting with flatware and crystal from William Yeoward and gold-rimmed china from Marie Daâge.
Pfeifle chose sofas and chairs that are modernistic takes on classic pieces—one seating arrangement references Ruhlmann style, with cream upholstery and mahogany trim. An Art Deco interpretation of a classic Louis fauteuil comes with suede fabric and Bakelite arms; a pair of these chairs sit before a Louis XV–style mantelpiece, further contrasted by ceramic lamps (by Christopher Spitzmiller) in bright primary colors. Decorative objects he and Granville, a real estate broker, found during their travels were curated to create still lifes with a contemporary feel. Yet the traditional still has its place in the form of a baby grand piano and crystal wall sconces flanking the contemporary art. And the French boiserie stayed. “I thought of painting it white, or darker, but it provides such a calming backdrop that I left it as is,” Pfeifle says.
A similar dynamic is at play in the dining room, where the carpet pattern is the same as the living room (the colors are brighter), and modern art frames the room’s classic-inspired pieces: tufted dining chairs, an English candelabrum topped with moss topiary, and a large buffet—likely of Chinese origin—dating from the 1930s. The dining table has roots closer to home—Pfeifle purchased it at Lorin Marsh in the D&D Building. As a passionate sailor, he was drawn to the table’s compass-motif inlay.
The entrance to the 3,200- square-foot apartment with the original travertine marble flooring.
Elsewhere, Pfeifle continues to play the new off the old: In the entrance hall, he kept the original terrazzo flooring, but installed mirrors in the paneling. In the narrow hall leading off the foyer, he added a bar with a mirrored back and wooden shelving, lit by a brilliantly colored Chinese lamp with a bright red shade; beyond, the sunroom has been turned into an office/sitting area, with carpeting covering the slate flooring to give the room warmth.
Pfeifle hosts three or four events for charities in his New York apartment every year. Nonprofit groups rely on his business acumen, honed from years of holding senior positions at major retailers. Pfeifle says he makes sure to have a fundraising target firmly in mind before he agrees to host an event and put together a guest list. While he hosts more cocktail than dinner parties—“everyone’s so busy in New York”—he says donation goals are reached more easily with dinner parties. For a recent party for 70, where he introduced guests to the CEO of the ASPCA, he says more than half the guests gave “significant contributions.”
Jeff Pfeifle (seated) and Dave Granville with their companions, two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, named Skipper and Boo, and a cockapoo named Millie.
Some Pfeifle parties are simply celebrations, like his traditional Christmas cocktail party, during the second or third week of December. (“It’s always a Wednesday or Thursday; too many New Yorkers leave the city on weekends.”) In the foyer he installs a large tree decked in white lights and red bows, and greets more than 100 guests—family, friends, and business associates. Wreaths hang in every window. As in past years, the dining table will be in the center of the party, filled with chafing dishes of shrimp curry or beef Bourguignon, sushi, little quiches, and “I know it sounds cheesy—pigs in blankets: They’re the favorite!”
Pfeifle says one way he makes sure newcomers feel welcome at holiday events is to arrange for a Christmas carol sing-along. “We splurge and hire a pianist. We hand out copies of Christmas songs, and everyone gets into the spirit.” He adds: “It’s very funny to listen to people who think they sound great.” Who would that be? “Me!” he replies.
Decorative objects, like the two Foo dogs, are from Pfeifle and Granville’s far-flung travels. This year they visited Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Turkey, Greece, and England. “We’re saturated,” says Pfeifle, “and constantly editing.”
Pfeifle’s apartment revamp remains a work in progress. Friends called on to help move items in the apartment often joke about Pfeifle’s passion for rearranging. “Often I get a roll of the eye!” he says, adding that sometimes the joke is on him: “Late one night, I decided to move the baby grand, and a leg came off. I caught the piano, and then had to slide it to the intercom, push the buzzer with my chin, and ask the doorman to come up. It was an emergency!” But occasional mishaps haven’t deterred him from continuing to experiment with color and form. Designing and entertaining are both great creative outlets, Pfeifle says, always leading to new discoveries.
photography by costas picadas