A Fashionable Upper East Side Apartment

Take a peek inside the artistic mind of Jessica Gersten.
Chairs Wtih Coffee Table

Photographs by Costas Picadas

For anyone who has worked in the fashion industry, an eye for detail, understated sophistication, and visual harmony are de rigueur. So it’s no surprise that fashion executive-turned-decorator Jessica Gersten’s projects embody couture precision.

“Just like putting together an outfit,” says Gersten, who previously worked for Polo Ralph Lauren, Armani, and Kenneth Cole, “designing a room is about balance, and knowing when you’ve found the right mix of components to make it appealing.”

Charged with decorating a 3,000-square-foot two-bedroom for a newly engaged couple moving into their first shared apartment, Gersten stuck to her credo. With its creamy white color palette, the living room initially comes off as a study in restraint. A closer look reveals touches of energy and the unexpected.

breakfast table

Photographs by Costas Picadas

The cocktail table, for instance, resembles striated stone, but is actually wood, and black accents—from the Minotti sofa legs to the casement windows—add some ebony to all the ivory. “A polarity exists between the earthy hues and dark tones,” says Gersten. “Used selectively, these juxtapositions can be really special.”

The open floor plan also incorporates a formal dining area, where willowy black leather chairs surround a BDDW table, positioned beneath a delicate brass mobile chandelier designed by Michael Anastassiades. “Strong lighting immediately elevates a space,” comments Gersten. “People notice its impact first.”

Built into an existing wall alcove, a 16-foot-long bleached-oak bookcase runs the length of the living area. It features a sliding woven leather screen smartly concealing a television. The shelves feature barware, ceramics, books, and other decorative objects. All meticulously arranged decorative details underscore Gersten’s dark and light color story.

“Between designing the unit and choosing the accessories, it took longer to complete than the entire apartment!” the former fashion executive exclaims. “The bookcase needed to feel married to the space, but because it’s so large, there wasn’t much room for error.”

Master Bedroom

Photographs by Costas Picadas

The clients’ master bedroom, meanwhile, is a similarly neutral refuge. The headboard, upholstered in an ivory Ultrasuede, spans the wall, while nightstands wrapped in gray and white goatskin help unify the decor. A pair of armchairs from Jean de Merry and an etched-glass teardrop chandelier by Apparatus.

Once Gersten finished decorating, she focused her attention on artwork as a “vehicle for color.” Art adviser Vanessa Buia pulled a wide-ranging assortment of pieces from emerging artists to serve as focal points.

“I tried to find art that would be flexible enough to move around as the clients’ collection expands,” says Buia. She sourced a black-and-white Matthew Pillsbury triptych for the master bedroom, where Gersten had envisioned a monochromatic piece above the headboard.


Photographs by Costas Picadas

For the dining area, Buia recommended an oversize abstract oil and acrylic on canvas by Kes Richardson. The work’s vivid paint strokes—yellow, red, and bright pink— virtually pop from the white background.

“We looked at a lot of pieces for this spot,” recalls Gersten, “but this one made the most sense. It doesn’t take away from the beautiful chandelier or dining chairs. All the elements of a room, no matter where you live, must communicate with one another. That’s the sign of good decorating.”


The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Sleek Retreat.