In NoLIta, a Rental Renovated in Shades of Purple

In NoLIta, a Rental Renovated in Shades of Purple


Harry Nuriev and Tyler Billinger were having a purple kind of day.

On a recent sunny morning in their NoLIta apartment, Mr. Nuriev, the founder of the design firm Crosby Studios, sat barefoot and cross-legged in purple pants on plush purple carpet while Mr. Billinger, his partner in life and work, lounged on silvery cushions in a purple floral shirt.

Around them sat numerous pieces that Mr. Nuriev had designed for the fashion brand Opening Ceremony — a furry chair, cylindrical shelving units, a floor lamp with hand-shaped diffusers — all realized in solid violet.

Mr. Nuriev, 35, is a Russian-born, New York-based designer with offices in Moscow and New York, and he has had dalliances with other colors in the past: dusty pink, powder blue and brilliant yellow. But he usually limits his palette for each project to a single eye-catching color, with the goal of creating furniture and interiors that visually pop.

“It changes every day,” he said. “Today, I might have a blue mood, tomorrow a purple mood.”

Committing to one dominant color for his home, therefore, presented a challenge.

“I wanted my home to be very neutral and monochromatic, so I chose a gray color as a relaxing base color,” he said.

But gray “needs support,” he added, to avoid falling flat. Eventually, he decided that bright purple was the ideal partner — and one he could live with for a while.

The effect is invigorating, especially when taken together with material choices like squishy kitchen-cabinet doors upholstered in silver faux leather and square gray tiles that cover a number of surfaces, including the kitchen sink.

But perhaps the most surprising part of the extensive renovation the couple undertook last year — which utterly transformed a respectable apartment that already had hardwood floors and an updated kitchen and bathroom — is that it’s a rental.

The couple rents the 900-square-foot, one-bedroom duplex for $5,600 a month and, after discussions with their unusually permissive landlord, spent more than $50,000 on the renovation, an investment they won’t be able to recover if they eventually move on.

Mr. Billinger, 24, was already renting the apartment while working in public relations at Moschino and Jeremy Scott when he met Mr. Nuriev about a year and a half ago. After just a few months, they decided to live together in Mr. Nuriev’s apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which left the NoLIta home largely vacant. Mr. Billinger later became a partner at Crosby Studios, where he now handles business matters as the firm’s client list expands. (Mr. Nuriev’s latest creation is a transparent sofa stuffed with surplus clothing, which he developed with Balenciaga and introduced at Design Miami last month.)

“I had this place sitting here,” he said. “Last summer, when both our leases were up, we were thinking maybe we should rent a new place and just start completely fresh.”

But as they prepared to give up the NoLIta apartment, they realized it had several things going for it.

“We really loved the energy in this neighborhood,” Mr. Billinger said. “And having two floors made sense for us, because a lot of times we end up working at home, so it’s nice to have that separation.”

They also liked that it had a large balcony with a view of One World Trade Center.

So they renewed the lease and brought in a contractor last summer. They demolished the existing kitchen, removed the island and added a transparent violet acrylic panel to provide some separation from the living room. They eliminated the full-size refrigerator and installed an under-counter model. Where there was previously a full-size range, they extended a new tiled counter and installed an integrated two-burner cooktop, largely for aesthetic reasons.

“We don’t really cook, as you can tell,” Mr. Billinger said, pointing to the potted succulents artfully placed around the burners.

They covered the living room’s hardwood floors with wall-to-wall carpeting and tiled the wall, while also creating a platform that holds cushions for a custom sofa that is easily reconfigured.

Upstairs, they changed the layout to make space for a bedroom with a soft headboard upholstered in gold faux leather and a large dressing area enclosed by a tiled storage wall and outfitted with Ikea racks.

They also gutted the master bathroom to add more gray tile, a gray toilet and violet acrylic partitions. Crosby Studios collaborators supplied some of the finishing touches, including plumbing fixtures the firm created with the Australian company Dorf and a vanity produced with the Indian furniture company Hatsu.

After two months of construction, the renovation was completed in September.

Despite the uncertain future of their rental, they have no regrets. They are simply happy to live in the moment.

“Cost-wise, it’s not the easiest thing to do,” said Mr. Nuriev, whose first interior design project was his former rental apartment in Moscow, where he did the same thing in 2013. “But it’s a very exciting feeling to be inside of your own environment every day.”

“We want it to reflect who we are as people,” Mr. Billinger said. “And I think this home really reflects that.”

Although, as Mr. Nuriev noted, “Most people probably think it’s crazy.”

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