Barely six months after Andrea Glimcher moved into the storied Ansonia on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 2004, she began casting an eye next door. On maternity leave with her first child, Katharine, she was already imagining outgrowing the three-bedroom apartment, though she loved its architectural details and European flair. So on New Year’s Eve she left a bottle of Champagne with what she calls “a sweet but to the point” note, expressing interest in buying if the neighbor was interested in selling.
It worked. By the time Katharine turned two, a deal had been struck and a renovation quickly orchestrated. But Andrea and her then-husband, Marc Glimcher—who both worked at his family’s Pace Gallery, where he serves as president—weren’t finished. In 2011, following the birth of their son, Alexander, two apartments directly upstairs came on the market in quick succession. “To have a situation where this amount of space could be assembled was unusual,” says Andrea, who now heads her own consultancy, Hyphen, assisting artists, institutions, and collectors with management and special projects.
The Glimchers snatched up both units and tapped architect Alan Wanzenberg, whose expertise with historic buildings they admired, to design the now 6,000-square-foot penthouse duplex. Though the couple divorced before the four-year project was completed, Andrea carried on, working closely with Wanzenberg to create a family home that would also serve as a compelling setting for her sizable collection of contemporary art—primarily pieces by friends and artists she has long admired.
Presiding serenely over the living room, for example, are several Agnes Martin works, distinguished by her signature pale, penciled lines. Hanging in Katharine’s bedroom is a crumpled metal sculpture by John Chamberlain, a baby gift from the artist. Several works by Kiki Smith—including her hypnotic video of jellyfish, in the kitchen—punctuate the apartment, as do pieces by Chuck Close, George Condo, Alex Katz, Vik Muniz, Will Ryman, and Pat Steir.
Wanzenberg had toyed with various layouts, but Andrea ultimately decided she wanted the family bedrooms, living room, and kitchen on the main floor and the less-trafficked spaces, including the dining room, upstairs, where porthole windows, while charming, provide less light. (Wanzenberg brightened things up a bit by adding some new skylights and refurbishing existing ones.) To connect the two levels, they opted not for a traditional grand staircase in the foyer but a space-saving spiral design toward the back of the apartment—its form echoing the circular living and dining rooms it links. “It could have been a Park Avenue apartment,” the architect says. “What’s fun about it is the unconventionality.”
When it came to the kitchen, Andrea initially imagined a design inspired by her favorite Viennese patisserie, Demel, with its rich mahogany and brass accents. But she and Wanzenberg agreed that would feel too dark and instead ended up going for white cabinets, miles of Carrara marble, and a stainless-steel island she picked up at a restaurant-supply store on the Bowery. (Nods to Demel can be found elsewhere, however, including the staircase’s striking asymmetrical handrails—a perfect spiral of lacquered wood on one side and a gleaming curl of brass on the other.)
The decorating process was a bit like a theater piece, with helpful friends “entering stage left, exiting stage right,” Andrea says. “It’s made me appreciate all the creative—and resourceful—people in my life.” Her cousin, for instance, runs a leather-goods company and found the Colombian artisan who stitched a jagged-edged calf-hair rug for the living room. Stumped for months about what to do with the dining room, Andrea decided to bring in a collaborator. “My life is working with and for artists, 24/7,” she explains. “I realized, I should invite somebody to do something in the dining room.”
She turned to her friend artist Adam Pendleton. “He was my first choice because of our mutual love of Sol LeWitt,” she recounts. “I said to him, ‘Why don’t you do a wall drawing?’ ” Pendleton, who is African American, responded by wrapping the entire room in a showstopping vinyl mural featuring the fragmented words BLACK LIVES MATTER. Not wanting anything to compete with Pendleton’s work, Andrea designed a clear acrylic table herself and surrounded it with mahogany bentwood chairs by Viennese Secessionist designer Gustav Siegel, an unexpectedly inspired choice. “I like contrasts that seem so far apart they actually fit together,” she says.
The final touch resulted from a stop at a traffic light in SoHo one day, when Andrea caught sight of what she thought was a plain black pendant light hanging in a shop. On closer inspection, she found the piece, by Marcel Wanders, was anything but simple: The dome’s white plaster interior was a floral rhapsody, which Andrea realized would be reflected in the acrylic table. The effect, particularly at night, is dazzling. “It’s like a secret, or a surprise,” she says.
Discovering the light also affirmed her guiding philosophy, whether in art, decorating, or life: You have to walk through the world with your eyes open.