Eva Alt is a visual storyteller at her core. The dancer, who has been a New York City resident for eight years, has moved from studio to studio every year, each one with a completely different look. Her last studio, in SoHo was minimally furnished and all white, down to the floors. “I filled it up with white orchids.” Alt says, “It was an amazing feeling to be there, but it was a little restricting.”
So when she and her partner, architect Sharif Khalje, moved into a pre-war apartment in Manhattan’s Union Square neighborhood, they were excited to lean into a new, layered design aesthetic. The brownstone had many charming details, including original moldings and pocket Windows that made it sing. The full-floor unit was filled with beautiful lighting and a cozy building, the owners of the unit live downstairs. They decorated the space together with their favorite art, custom-made wood furniture, and handmade rug. The couple created a platform bed with Roman steps and organic home brand for the bedroom. There’s also room for dancing.
“Maybe I’ll want like, an all-white apartment again someday,” Alt says, “but it’s nice to try new things. Sharif and I had lived together for quite some time, so it was great to be able find something together. We were pretty open-minded about our criteria for what we wanted. We were looking for a lot of space, beautiful light, tall ceilings, and that magical feeling you get when you enter an apartment. Streeteasy was a great place to find this apartment quickly. But I was extremely on top of it and I believe we were the first people to see every apartment that we looked at.”
You will find all original floors, doors, pocket windows, and original moldings in her new apartment.
“My last apartment was in SoHo. It was bright and airy, with white furniture. I didn’t have much stuff. White walls, white floors, and white, clear or cream furniture were my main possessions. This apartment has a lush, beautiful character, so it’s a big departure. My old apartment was a showroom, or an atelier. It was very precious. Our original plan was to paint the bed white but we decided to leave it with maple plywood as the wood is so beautiful. Our apartment feels very cozy.”
“Our bedroom was large enough to accommodate a show-stopper bed. We wanted a classic, geometric shape. The other inspiration for the design is the ballet Apollo by George Balanchine. It is my favorite ballet. These steps were in the original set, which they no longer use. The ballet ends with Apollo being called home to Parnassus, where Zeus, Apollo’s father, lives. The Muses try to keep him on Earth but he must go home so they follow him up the steps.”
What sheets and blankets do you use to dress the bed?
Everything is soft and the colors are simple. The sheet set is a great choice, as there’s no dye or other additives. We also own the white duvet. All of them are classic, comfy, and lovely sheets. We also have the Avocado Green Pillows. A hard pillow is my preference over a soft one, but I am like Goldilocks when it comes to pillows. They can’t be too soft or too hard. It’s just right. That’s what we always look for.
What have you learned through the process of decorating so many spaces?
Some people view design as a project, and want it to be completed in a month. That is not me. I don’t want anything to be too perfect or finished. It takes me months to hang one piece, because I don’t want it to look too perfect. I only buy items that I feel are truly special. It’s better to buy the things you love than buying new items for every apartment. You can either base your entire room on that chair or lamp, or you can use it as the basis for everything else.
Are there any objects in the house that are super meaningful to you?
Rugs. Because they are so wide, I love putting flowers in them. It’s difficult to find a candle that fits. It’s easy to find beautiful, seasonal flowers near our Union Square home. To be able to pick up flowers on the way back, I must remind myself to eat first. Our rugs are special because they are all handmade and very old. It’s amazing.
You talked earlier about lighting being so important. What is the best way to light a space? Do you have anti-overhead lighting?
Honestly, we don’t have quite enough lamps yet. However, I believe that having many lamps creates a more beautiful lighting source than overhead lighting. Candlelight is my favorite.