An Apartment in U.N. Plaza Gets Interpreted Anew by Interior Designer Victoria Klein

Living room red sofaBefore finding her calling as an interior designer, Victoria Klein ventured down a few other creative paths. Architecture came first, followed by set design (via a brief stint in Hollywood) and later fashion design, which Klein jumped into upon resettling in her native New York. She came to embrace interior design when she started renovating her own homes, from an 1873 Clinton Hill brownstone to a rambling Edwardian house in Pelham to a clapboard Georgian on Cape Cod.

“For years, I had no idea I had such a passion for interiors,” says Klein, who’s fanatical about fabrics, color, and drama and finds decorating a natural culmination of her experiences to date. “My past lives definitely inform my design in different ways.” Though her world is primarily a visual one, she’s also highly attuned with her verbal side, a result of life with her husband, Joe Klein, the political columnist for Time and an author of six books. (“I’m married to a writer, so I am an enormous reader too!”) They make their home in Westchester County, where Klein has worked on numerous design projects.

One couple, for whom she has completed two homes in the suburbs, recently moved to Manhattan and instantly thought of Klein for their new city digs. The airy two-bedroom apartment is located in United Nations Plaza, a pair of iconic buildings erected in 1966 by New York architectural firm Harrison & Abramovitz. “The lobby alone is amazing,” says Klein. “It’s very Mad Men, with wonderful furniture from the 1960s. I wanted to connect with the building and with the homeowners’ aesthetic.” 

A certain period detail, however, needed some reining in: the apartment’s mirrored walls. “There were too many, and they gave off a dated, disco feel, so I edited them, leaving just a few to reflect the light and the scenery.” (The spectacularly sited towers offer amazing views of the East River.) But Klein couldn’t resist investing in a mirrored vintage dining table, pairing it with chic leather and wood Jansen chairs. Ripple-fold drapery (another ’60s throwback) and a striated metallic grass-cloth wall covering add a further dash of glimmer to the already glamorous dining room.

Black, white, and red dominate the bulk of the decor, the latter color running the gamut from raspberry in the master bedroom to the “very declarative red” of the living room’s Vladimir Kagan sectional. “The sofa is perfect,” Klein says of the vintage piece she found on eBay, chosen to accommodate a crowd. (The homeowners like to entertain.) “It practically envelops you, the way it wraps around the living room and fits the space like a glove.” Occasional tables and a vintage Italian bar cart on wheels bring even more life to the party.

The red sofa really springs into action juxtaposed against one of Klein’s most surprising contributions: a digitally reproduced section of a medieval mural. “There’s something magical about its arches,” says the designer, who worked similar wizardry in the master bedroom, where she installed a custom floor-to-ceiling headboard depicting an urn overflowing with flowers and a swath of wallpaper featuring an oversize black-and-white floral print. A jubilant Marimekko pattern in the second bedroom, which doubles as an office, is another bold stroke, used here for curtains as well as on pillows. “I didn’t try to re-create an apartment from another era, but took references from a decade of classic design,” Klein adds. “I’d say that’s the gestalt of the new home.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 2015 issue of New York Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Exotic Aerie.