Vera Wang creative director Michelle Sanders spends her days on visual overdrive. The loft she comes home to at night is the antidote: a pale, serene yet still high-style respite from the fashion fray.
Working in the fashion and design worlds is fast-paced and full of stimulation. “My office has pink lacquer on the walls, blaring rock music and shine everywhere!” says Michelle Sanders. That’s precisely why she and her husband, Derek, an architect behind many of New York’s chicest nightspots, found getting away from it all to be essential. “We have so much product, so much stuff in our daily lives, that we need to come home and have our eyes do no work,” Michelle says. So when they moved into this downtown Manhattan loft, formerly a sweatshop, they set out to create the tranquil, neutral hideaway they craved. The couple chose a scheme of airy whites and creams, grounded by rich browns and warm beiges and illuminated by metallic moments. Not only is their home an oasis from the rat race, but it also mirrors Michelle’s personal fashion sense. “Texture is my way of doing color,” she says. Just as she loves to mix high-end and street fashion, so she and Derek have layered pieces of varying pedigree at home, all pulled together through the spare palette.
In setting up a home suited to family life, Michelle and Derek wanted a large, well-proportioned common space that felt calm. They created two distinct but connected zones, a casual library at left (a wall of bookshelves is opposite) and a salonlike area to the right. "Furniture piled in the middle of the room is great for kids to climb on, as well as for being sociable," Derek explains. For the centerpiece, Derek designed a sofa in homage to an Edward Wormley classic, then dressed it in a Ralph Lauren chocolaty hide. "Once we like something, we keep adding things around it, making sure the pieces work together," Michelle says, referring to her approach to fashion as well. The Knoll sofa, one segment of which sits by the majestic windows, was re-covered in brown herringbone wool (also from Ralph Lauren) to complement the earth tones. An Hermès throw, a cow-skin rug and assorted pillows further enrich the space, while hanging glow lamps epitomize the high-low blend the couple favors.
The matching poufs cleverly connect the two areas and have that texture Michelle loves.
Michelle is inspired by fashion designers who start with classic simplicity, then add layers of fun. That principle applies at home too, where there's an artful play between rustic, modern and glitzy. The dining table surrounded by plastic Danish dining chairs reinforces the loft's palette and speaks to the couple's stylish yet grounded nature, with the sleek lines of the chairs offsetting the rough wood of the table. A silver vase on the dining table and a chrome filing cabinet in the casual work space hit the glam notes. (Perhaps not surprising for someone who oversees the design of jewelry and accessories, Michelle has a taste for the sheen of silver.) Everything in the apartment comes from local stores, including the 1950s French light fixture. "After lunch and a nice bottle of wine, we'll go shopping in the neighborhood," Derek says.
Derek, Michelle and Vaughn relax on the soft chenille of the oversize mid-century chair in the master bedroom.
The ultimate haven from workaday chaos, the bedroom has an almost-all-white-and- cream palette and virtually no clutter. But this pared-down escape doesn't skimp on flair-and true to Michelle's MO, it's all in the accessories: The silk quilt shimmers like a fancy dress, the pillows provide pattern without being distracting, and the silver leather pouf is a little rock and roll. In the breezy master bathroom, the 1" x 1" ceramic floor tiles that extend up the side of the tub fit with the couple's fondness for clean, white forms. Basic painted-wood shelving maximizes an alcove, both built by Derek. And a warm fluorescent-light fixture hung vertically on the wall serves as a funky faux window (there's no natural light). The canvas shower curtain was raised almost to the ceiling, making it a dramatic decorating feature rather than something purely functional.