They wanted a whole new kitchen. They ended up with a brand new apartment.

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Written By Jim J Neal

Stephen Kent JohnsonAll that Billy Cotton wanted was a brand new kitchen. Oliver Newton and Margaret Lee, founders of 47 Canal Gallery sought out a New York decorator.
The couple purchased their prewar apartment of 760 square feet in Manhattan in an estate sale. This is a common term for the need to gut-renovate. Cotton diplomatically stated that the kitchen had not been touched for many years. Cotton said that the kitchen was nothing more than a “galley” and was “deeply functionally inoperative.”
It’s obvious that Cotton was more than a room redo. He is well-known for his work as an art collector and artist.

The console and lamps in this entry are from Gallery 25 London. Cotton is Eliko. They met many years ago when the former was decorating Cindy Sherman’s home and the latter was managing Cindy Sherman’s studio. Both were drawn together by a passion for creating stunning interiors and displaying great art. Cotton was able to convince the couple to expand the scope of the project with little resistance. Cotton loved the idea of these young stars of downtown living in an old Midtown building with a manually-operated elevator. He said, “The contrast was inspirational.”
A white-box-gallery simulacrum was used to create the overall look. Too boring, too obvious, not Billy. Cotton created a salon-dining space by orienting everything around the fireplace in the living room. He used a custom banquette made from Schumacher velvet and a vintage Italian sofa to one side. He says, “The room doesn’t get flooded by natural light.” He said, “So the idea wasn’t to fight that.” He embraced the interior chiaroscuro with the dark olive paint and dark fabric.

Stephen Kent JohnsonIn his bedroom, Billy used “palace-size”, wool carpets that he bought at an auction in Boston. They were cut to fit the space. Some controversy was sparked by the addition of seashell side tables. Cotton claims that Olive was scared of them. I didn’t wait to get their approval. They had to have these tables in their lives.” Oliver has since embraced them.
Cotton used a French dead-stock roll chintz to make the window treatments. He paired it with matchstick blinds. He also hung a Aria Dean sculpture featuring a red bow suspended from an industrial chain. He says that the art in the apartment was relatively quiet. This makes the tension between traditional and contemporary decorative elements even more compelling.

The side table and sconce in the bedroom are from Gallery 25 London. The chair and rug are both vintage. As a rule, Cotton doesn’t give much thought to the space. Cotton embraces its utility. This is the case with the 1950s-inspired, linoleum floor, and stainless steel counters. It is a place where form and function can be a two-mile ahead of each other. He says, “Keep the shagreen and gold out of the kitchen.” Keep that in your powder room.

This story first appeared in the March 2022 issue ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE
Charles CurkinArticles Editor at ELLE DecorCharles Curkin covers all things related to architecture, interior design and real estate. He has also written previously for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

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