Katie Leede’s SoHo Loft Is an Eclectic Masterpiece
The ultimate collector's nest.
By Suzanne Davis
September 30, 2021
New York-based designer Katie Leede is well-known for her colorful globetrotting style, from the soulful interiors she creates for her clients to the brick-and-mortar shop she opened last year in Sag Harbor, New York. Here, she invites us to step inside the light-drenched, vintage-filled SoHo loft she and her family call home sweet home.
Most Manhattan real estate fantasies fall under just a handful of salivatory categories. There’s the storybook Upper East Side townhouse (paging Holly Golightly!). The sprawling, parkside “Eloise-at-the-Plaza” retreat. And the airy SoHo loft that instantly summons Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.
For what’s practically a prototype of the latter, look no further than interior and textile designer Katie Leede’s home, tucked into the cast iron 1890 offices of a onetime silk exchange. “It’s been around the block, and it’s great,” Leede says of the 2,400 square foot co-op, where 21 outsized windows allow daylight to flow as untrammeled as the wind off the Hudson. “It still has an industrial vibe to it, which appeals to us.”
A 19th century French bust of Joan of Arc made of bronze and marble is the first antique Leede ever purchased for herself, when she was just out of college. “I got it down in the antique district of New York when there was still a really vibrant antique district,” she says. Leede had her Dmitriy & Co. sofa upholstered in a Holland & Sherry mohair “in a rich cognac colored velvet,” she says.Lesley Unruh
When Leede and her significant other purchased the property, they opted for minimal renovations to maximise the Only-in-Soho aesthetic. Leede began by fully separating the formerly “railroaded” (i.e. connected) bedrooms and had the walls in the living spaces plastered in light gray for texture. “Plaster gives it luminescence, too, because it has a slight sheen to it,” Leede says. “There’s variation in the finish. And it just gives interest and depth, and a handmade quality to things.” The couple did eventually choose to replace the home’s original windows, too, with sound-blocking double paned versions in the specifications of the former ones. Before the switch, “you could literally hear traffic roaring down Broome Street and rattling the bed,” Leede recalls. “It was crazy!”
Gilt French 19th century horses that “probably came off of a riding shop,” Leede says, act as a sculptural moment over this sitting area. “I just liked the way they pop off the wall like that—they’re good conversation pieces.”Lesley Unruh
Quiet is necessary, and not just for the couple themselves, a pair of high school chums who reconnected romantically later in life. Their home functions as an occasional crash pad for their five grown kids from previous relationships, sundry dogs and a visiting grandchild. Leede had a sanity-saving approach to the design of the interiors, which often mixes their combined curated antiques and family heirlooms with her own pattern designs, a look she has deemed a happy mish-mash. “It’s meant to be lived in and it’s super comfortable and easy peasy,” Leede says. “It’s not very high concept, which is a really nice way to live for us as sort of a freewheeling family.”
In the kitchen, Leede enlisted a plasterer to transform existing MDF finishes into what looks like metal, “And then I had my super just sand and stain the butcher block [counters to a] walnut.”Lesley Unruh
Wherever you look, personal mementos abound. Take the early 1800s Chinese coffee table in the expansive open living room, a beacon of fun memories: “It used to have a beautiful polish on it, but my kids used it for their coloring table [when they were little].” Or the towering column in one corner that Leede had painted to look like marble, which now holds a plant with provenance: a night-blooming cereus that is in itself a family heirloom. “That’s a plant that came from a cutting, [taken] in 1920 off my grandfather’s plant,” Leede says. “This original plant has spawned, probably, over 200 different plants. We have a few of them in our apartment, which we nursed from a single cutting.” For the uninitiated, night-blooming cereus are not your average herbage—they bloom once a year, and were a favorite of Mark Twain, who kept them in his Connecticut conservatory. “They are very unwieldy plants and they’re really spooky and wonderful—like Miss. Havisham, from ‘Great Expectations.’ They’re a little scary in a really good way…It’s pretty special when it does [bloom].”
“I bought [a pair of these paintings] on West Broadway back in 1986 when the street was only art galleries, and there was a show of this hyper-realist painter,” Leede says. “I’ve carried them everywhere I’ve lived.”Lesley Unruh
But Leede’s most notable design choice might just be what she left untouched: the paint-splattered wood floors left by previous artists that called the place home. “They were already painted in a cream color, but you can see they’re quite worn by time,” she says. “It’s clear that painters lived there before and you still see bits and pieces of where they painted on the floor.” The Jackson Pollock look is endlessly appealing for her. “I just don’t mind any of that—it seems very New York, [and very] downtown SoHo.” Plus, it comes with a perk: less fretting about spills of any kind. “I find it very relaxing to live with that level of patina and been-there-ness,” Leede says.