“Yellowy chartreuse…that color is my favorite!” Barbara notes of her Upper East Side front door. This particular hue is a mix of two Benjamin Moore colors: Chartreuse (2024-10) and Citron (2024-30).Francesco Lagnese
It all starts with the door. And when it comes to making an entrance, this one, on a circa 1868 Upper East Side townhouse, ranks high. It’s the type of portal Instagrammers will travel for: yellow as an Easter Peep, with its original vertical mail slot intact. “People are always taking pictures of it…it should have its own Instagram account!” says longtime homeowner Barbara McLaughlin, president of The Fund for Park Avenue, who shares the home with her husband Kevin McLaughlin, co-founder and creative director of J. McLaughlin, and their two kids.
Inside, tasting the rainbow continues, with walls sheathed in Tiffany blue, juniper green and, no surprise, more chartreuse. It’s such a multihued color palette that at one point, a contractor balked, Barbara recalls. “The site supervisor was seeing all these colors on the walls and furniture coming in and he said, ‘I didn’t know what you were doing, I didn’t think I would like this.’ And then when he saw it all together he said, ‘Wow, it looks really great.’”
The thick pile throw pillows on the sofa and circa 1970s cocktail table were a both auction finds.Francesco Lagnese
Kevin spotted the late-19th-century campaign chest, made in Hong Kong, at Freeman’s Auctions in Philadelphia. “I just love campaign furniture,” he says. “You can put it in a completely modern room and it will look great, or you can put it in a traditional room and it will look great.”Francesco Lagnese
The smallest room in this house is this 8' x 10' office with gleaming high-gloss woodwork. “Believe it or not, we got that desk at the Barney's bankruptcy sale,” Kevin recalls. “There were magnificent pieces...we should have bought the house out.”Francesco Lagnese
All the color helps the couple preserve the feeling they had when they first stepped foot in the place: “Life happened here and you could tell it,” Barbara says. “It has soul.” They enlisted architect Doug Larson, who has designed each of their homes as well as the 152 J. McLaughlin retail stores across the country, to help with the interiors, where their design goal was simple: “Things that we like,” Barbara says. “I am a scavenger and a collector of sorts and Barbara’s not, but I simply buy things that I like in general and I present them to her,” adds Kevin. “And what makes the cut is in the house.”
A piece they bought at auction depicting Verona, Italy in the manner of a Fornasetti adds depth of field in the library. They added gold leaf detailing in the paneling and lined the ceiling in shimmering golden wallpaper to bounce light around.“I like a little sparkle!” Barbara notes.Francesco Lagnese
Tucked away in the second story hall, the bar is pure eye candy: “for viewing more than anything else,” says Kevin, who collects barware. “We like to leave the doors open and look at it.”
Kevin and Barbara McLaughlin in the living room of their Upper East Side townhouse.
One glance at J. McLaughlin’s clothing, which summons the breezy, timeless feel of Martha’s Vineyard, and you’d expect the home to be preppy. But you may not imagine it would be so very layered, with midcentury modern, 19th century English and Impressionist art pieces alike roosting throughout. Among their finds, everything has a backstory (note the Nantucket baskets supplying texture in the library, a nod to their honeymoon spot). Antiques are rife; the couple notably met at an auction—proof you never know what treasure you’ll walk away with. “She’d be standing there supervising the bidding and I’d be flailing away to get some attention,” Kevin remembers. “I accumulated a fair amount of art throughout that process.”
Proof the duo adores their bedroom: after a flood from the home’s historic gutters ransacked the place while they were on vacation in Wyoming, they reinstalled it exactly the same. “As much as we tweak and evolve, if we like something and a flood happens, we put it right back the way it was!” Barbara laughs. The draperies were sewn from a “ J. McLaughlin fabric that we were making ladies’ coats out of, believe it or not,” Kevin says—a move Maria von Trapp would respect.Francesco Lagnese
Previous owners left this leopard chest of drawers behind. “I like to read in bed,” Barbara says. “No TV ever in our bedroom!” Throughout the house, you’ll spy diminutive leather telephone tables. “We always have a lot of those because once I get settled in in my chair with my book and my coffee, I don't want to be getting up.”Francesco Lagnese
“I remember Doug saying, ‘This should be like a surprise on the top of the building.’ He said it should be some type of folly,” Kevin notes of the top floor retreat, tented with a J.McLaughlin stripe cotton canvas. “This is a very popular guest room is in constant circulation. I practically have to have a sign-in sheet!” Barbara adds.Francesco Lagnese
While that yellow front entrance sets pulses racing, it’s what’s beyond their back door that truly boggles New Yorkers’ minds: a manicured private park known as The Jones Wood. Shared by the block’s surrounding neighbors, it feels like a tucked-away slice of Central Park. This entire row of identical brownstones was originally Victorian in style, with a second story stoop. But in 1919, “They were bought by a fellow who was a bit of an anglophile and he wanted it to look like London, so he stripped all the facades of their ornamentation, took the balconies off and joined the backyards,” Kevin says. That’s right: Gramercy Park isn’t the only hush-hush lush playland in the city. And here, only 12 people hold the key.
“Doug wanted to create a transition area between the kitchen and the outside, so this is meant to have the effect of a porch, with trellis over a mirror,” Kevin says. Adds Barbara: “It’s headquarters. We eat every single meal at [that table] and since I’ve taken over the dining room with my office, we’ve celebrated every holiday here.”Francesco Lagnese
The rainbow of hues continues onto the back of the house, which is painted a muted lavender.Francesco Lagnese
A 1919 New York Times newspaper article deemed these rowhouses, set where Edith Wharton’s family farm once stood, “a very poor asset from a real estate standpoint.”Francesco Lagnese
PRODUCED BY TORI MELLOTT