So you all know that I am huge fan of the Ralph Lauren and the uber luxurious, super layered look of the RLHome. I am also aware that a lot of you are on the wagon with me. So I knew that you'd all love the Manhattan studio of the woman responsible for many of those Ralph Lauren rooms we chase: Ellen O'Neill.
Researching her was much more difficult than I had assumed. No website, no portfolio. She was intereviewed earlier in 2010 by Carol Prisant, of House Beautiful on the decor and challenges of living within her small (but beautiful) Gramercy Park studio. Very Ralph Lauren, even from the description: a character filled "wonderful urban tree house, on the last gated private square in Manhattan."
From the interview - we find out that O'Neill has traveled the world as a design consultant with clients in interior design, home-product design, retail, hospitality. High-end, LUXURY hospitality that is: St. Regis, and the Luxury brands of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. In fact, it was the experience of designing luxury rooms for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, that made her leave the 7-room apartment she had (featured in Designing Women) and dive head first into the planning of the one-room studio in GP. The idea of one perfectly proportioned room really appealed to her. She bought a little house in the country, which you can rent here, so she didn't need a big apartment, filled with towers of items. She wanted a modern cubicle, where she could recline on a daybed and touch everything.
The above referenced daybed is beautifully covered in a soft, and faded toile and draped in belgian linen throws and pillows. The studio feels larger than it really is, 10-foot ceilings and the big, windowed doors and the terrace, the painted floors. Ellen confesses in the interview that she has always had painted floors — "I use automotive paint. Brown floors depress me to death. And I knew from the start that I wanted a black-and-white palette. But just black and white can be too hard and cold, too optical. You need some creams and grays and sepias to ease you into a softer, gentler world and add a little romance." She then layered in Modern Rugs, like the giraffe printed hide you see peeking through.
Her vignettes are stunning - exactly what we're used to seeing in those RL ad's right? Can you believe that even with these lovely layered spaces Ellen created in her studio, she had towers of items that aren't here!? After taking months to sort everything out, rooting in dark old closets, she had a huge sale. It was a healthy purge.
She kept books, black and white clothing, and a few sentimental bits, but only four days later, she felt so naked, it was almost like "I didn't have clothes on. I really needed my papers and things." So slowly, stuff began to creep back in, new collections began to emerge, all with the new and fresh perspective born by the one-room luxury of her suite creations.
Here, a better picture of the patterned rug, the true height of those elevated ceilings, wall of doors with the terrace beyond - so lucky, with a view she refers to as being "like St. Petersburg with the domes lit up." Ellen was inspired by that chicken-wire mesh embedded in the safety glass on the terrace doors, bringing her to use vintage wire baskets to hold firewood, garden supplies, and stationery, and the wire-framed topiaries on the mantel. Just in case you were wondering, that's an old wire parasol frame hanging behind them.
And let's not overlook the wire chandelier. It's by Ingo Maurer, and I'm sure that by now Ellen has filled it with personal notes and cards.
I would normally leave you with the portfolio here, but I couldn't find one. Instead, I leave you with the link to Starwood's St. Regis in NYC, which I believe Ellen O'Neill designed: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis/property/photos/index.html?propertyID=81#photo_section_2Link