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Alexander Wilson paired Schumacher’s Haruki Sisal wallcovering in Olive with an armless sofa clad in Kerry Joyce’s Rigoletto velvet to create an appropriately saturated backdrop for Salvador Dalí’s Signs of the Zodiac (1969) lithograph series.

Francesco Lagnese

Neoclassical Motifs and Exuberant Color Set the Stage for a One-of-a-Kind New York Apartment

Take a tour of Alexander Wilson's Upper East Side jewel box.

May 10, 2024

Alexander Wilson has always had a thing for good bones. Growing up, he would often visit his aunt in the bucolic enclave of Millbrook, New York, where stately Greek Revival homes dot the verdant landscape; in college, while studying historic preservation, he worked for the Preservation Society of Charleston, researching and writing about the organization’s storied homes. Eventually, he landed at the firm of Ashley Whittaker, known for her lovingly lived-in, traditional-with-a-twist interiors. Now, after eight years, he’s embarking on a new adventure with the launch of his own studio, bringing his passion for historic design with him. Nowhere is that more evident than in his own Upper East Side apartment, which Wilson bought in 2019 after renting nearby. We paid him a visit to see how he elevated its prewar charm to iconic proportions.


Entryway

Wilson upholstered the walls in Meander by Claire Louise Frost, sourced through Temple Studio NY. The doors are painted in full-gloss Farrow & Ball Brinjal No. 222.

Francesco Lagnese

“I definitely have my roots in neoclassical design,” Wilson says, and nowhere is that more evident than in the show-stopping foyer with its bold Greek key motif. He used a longtime favorite fabric—Claire Louise Frost’s Meander—to envelop the walls, breaking up its linearity (and adding a youthful jolt of energy) with an irregularly shaped mirror designed by Sarah Sherman Samuel for Lulu & Georgia. “There is also a touch of aubergine in the stripe which gave me the opportunity to incorporate more of a favorite color,” says Wilson, who painted the front door and trim in glossy Brinjal by Farrow & Ball.


Living Room

Wilson designed the geometric flatweave rug, which was made by L&M Custom Carpets. A Billy Baldwin slipper chair in a Fermoie print sits opposite an armchair that Wilson inherited from his grandmother, which he had reupholstered in Pierre Frey’s Mortefontaine. The tortoise lacquered parsons-style coffee table was a gift from designer Ashley Whittaker. Millwork is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Seapearl to match the grasscloth.

Francesco Lagnese

With its gracious proportions—there’s enough space for a large, comfortable seating area anchored around a wood-burning fireplace as well as a dining area—the living room is the heart of Wilson’s uptown home, and feels simultaneously sophisticated and cozy. He covered the walls with grasscloth—in a color he and Whittaker call “Millbrook green”—and wrapped the beams to highlight the space’s architecture. The furnishings are a mix of old and new: “I’d always wanted an olive-green velvet sofa but didn’t want to break the bank, so I found a very comfortable one from CB2 and had it reupholstered in a Kerry Joyce fabric—it also doubles as a twin bed if I have guests in town,” he explains. Another favorite hue, aubergine, accents the space, appearing on a Billy Baldwin slipper chair and an art piece (found at a vintage store in Miami) that hangs above a neoclassical console (“Ashley found it sitting on the curb on East 72nd Street and brought it back to the office!”).

  • A collection of zodiac prints from Chairish fills the wall above a CB2 sofa, reupholstered in a Kerry Joyce fabric, in Alexander Wilson’s New York living room.

    Francesco Lagnese
  • Because the apartment’s foyer is so petite, Wilson uses this vintage console as an additional drop zone for mail and keys.

    Francesco Lagnese

Kitchen

Avant-garde Lascaux wallpaper by Alan Campbell (and matching fabric on the roman shade) makes the small galley kitchen feel larger than life. A thrifted print in the style of Larry Zox hangs above the open shelving.

Francesco Lagnese

“The kitchen definitely needed the most work of anything in the apartment,” says Wilson, who worked with architectural firm Structure NYC to give the oddly shaped space a top-to-toe makeover, including new cabinets, floating shelves, and appliances. As for the graphic black-and-white Alan Campbell printed wallpaper and fabric that fills the space, “That was a pattern that I had been obsessed with when I worked at Quadrille, so figured I would go with it!” explains Wilson.


Bedroom

Pietro wallpaper by Casa Branca adds a contemporary spin on Neoclassical style when paired with column-like lamps and a pediment-shaped headboard fabricated by Luther Quintana. Prado sheets by Matouk Schumacher dress the bed.

Francesco Lagnese

With a custom pediment-shaped headboard by Luther Quintana as his jumping-off point, Wilson leaned into the neoclassical theme in his bedroom, covering the walls in architectural trompe-l’oeil masonry wallpaper from Casa Branca. The finished result is anything but one-note, though, thanks to an era-spanning mix of furniture (including a 1940s French Louis XVI–style writing desk and Georgian mahogany chest inherited from his grandmother), lighting (an oversize Noguchi paper lantern and plaster lamps topped in custom shades in unexpected lilac Cecil Cotton Chintz by Schumacher) and art (like Luther Seligman’s Orange Turban, which he found at Gerald Bland). But Wilson’s favorite element might be the leopard-print Stark carpet he installed underfoot: “There’s just something so Upper East Side prewar apartment about wall-to-wall carpet in a bedroom!”

  • On the opposite wall, a CB2 mirror reflects the Noguchi lantern. The lamp is by Christopher Spitzmiller, and the dresser is Crate & Barrel.

    Francesco Lagnese
  • Wilson at home in his apartment. The 1940s reproduction Queen Anne chairs previously belonged to his grandmother; he updated them with a chalky white painted finish and aubergine leather seats.

    Francesco Lagnese

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN VOLUME 12 OF FREDERIC MAGAZINE. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!