French designer Guillaume Gentet creates an apartment filled with stylish surprises

Rita Veygman, fashion executive, and her husband, fell in love with a 2,525-square-foot loft. Fed up with an empty apartment, they called on Gentet to help them achieve their perfect home.

Just off bustling Union Square, a nondescript limestone building
that started out as a bobbin factory in the 1930s has come full circle, to some degree, after being converted into fashionable floor-through condos in 2004. Not long after its conversion, Rita Veygman, fashion executive, and her husband, Roman, fell in love with a 2,526-square-foot loft-like apartment with three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, 16-foot-high ceilings, a fireplace, and large outdoor space. Like most New York City apartments, however, the second-floor unit wasn’t perfect: Additional storage was needed, as well as more functionality and a stronger sense of style. “It was just very masculine, and very empty,” Rita Veygman says. “At first we lived here with basically nothing, because we were waiting to see what we wanted to do. I knew that I wasn’t up to taking on a renovation by myself, but I hadn’t met anyone whose style and taste I really liked. And then I met Guillaume.”

That’s French designer Guillaume Gentet, who arrived in New York ten years ago and has since established a stellar career, working on high-profile projects in the city, the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, and Palm Beach. Characterized by a rigorous attention to detail, down-to-earth manner, and willingness to adapt to his clients’ needs, he is also incredibly resourceful: He once designed an entire bathroom around a set of old table legs found at a flea market, and built a cabinet using a gate from an abandoned firehouse.

Gentet’s encounter with Veygman, at a friend’s housewarming party, would prove fateful. “It was my first time seeing my friend’s renovated space, which Guillaume had done, and I just fell in love with it,” recalls Veygman. “The elegant yet comfortable style, the colors, and the finishes were everything I wanted for my own home. I asked my friend to introduce me to Guillaume, and the rest is history.” These days, not only does she routinely ask him to vet household items as minor as a toothbrush holder, but she considers him a member of the family and affectionately refers to him as her “other” husband. They talk constantly and enjoy shopping together.

Gentet immediately understood the Veygmans’ aesthetic needs. “They really wanted a sophisticated blend between uptown and downtown, a little European flair with a New York attitude,” he says. Additionally, the couple required “more storage, practicality, sophistication without clutter, and pieces they could grow with.”

There was just a glitch or two. During the first phase of the renovation, a major construction project at the adjacent New School halted their plans for eight months. Then came the day when Veygman called Gentet to let him know that—surprise!—the combined home gym/office would need to become a nursery. The renovation proceeded swiftly, finishing up just one week before Veygman gave birth to daughter Mia in fall 2012.

To achieve the “uptown/downtown” look throughout the loft, Gentet says, “I integrated varied pieces and finishes such as a vintage Baccarat coffee table, a Donghia daybed designed for Ralph Lauren’s Fifth Avenue apartment, a silk velvet custom bed, a Murano chandelier, and marble and mother-of-pearl mosaics in the master bath.” A hall closet was turned into a vibrant Asian-inspired powder room with Missoni fabric wallpaper, while in the den, Swarovski crystals sparkle on a hand-painted Japanese cherry blossom mural. And in the spa-like master bathroom suite, Gentet designed a second floor with a Lucite balcony and custom storage for Veygman’s considerable collection of handbags, suitcases, and more, all accessed via a spiral staircase. “Before the renovation,” she says, “it was a beautiful room with lots of wasted space. Now it’s a ‘duplex’ with tons of functional storage. I love seeing people’s reactions when they realize I have a two-story closet in my bathroom.”

Gentet’s inventiveness and obsessive attention to detail took root during his childhood. “My mother was a wonderful homemaker who would redo our house all the time,” he recalls. “She would do a lot of it herself—slipcovers, wallpaper—and I helped her. Also, my grandmother ran the house of a very influential family in France, and she taught me everything she knew about craftsmanship—art, linens, silverware, china . . . all the finer things in life.” He later worked in Paris for his cousin’s faux-finish and trompe l’oeil business, where he nurtured his passion for interior design before making his way to the States—first to Palm Beach, and then to work for Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic brand. (He remains close to Ashwell and considers her a mentor.)

As for the next phase of his career, Gentet is planning a line of home products, as well as a custom cabinetry line—and there is always more to be done with Veygman. “Rita will be in my life forever as a friend and muse,” he says fondly. Veygman wouldn’t have it any other way.

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