How to Make Every Awkward Space In Your House Look Totally Intentional

spring fever living room by timothy corrigan at kips bay show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Brilliant Tips from the 2023 Kips Bay Show HouseNickolas Sargent

Take it from the nation's top designers and architects—whether you want to enhance an older home's original bones or cover up some of the unsightly updates or outdated features it contains, both can be done in style. With the highly-anticipated return of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House New York—after a three-year, pandemic-induced absence—there's now a curated, five-floor toolbox of design inspiration to help you accomplish whatever home project you wish to tackle. Now in its 48th year, the Kips Bay Decorator Show House New York, also a fundraiser for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, provides some 10,000 square feet of tips and tricks from the country's best designers and architects, and a resurgence of design energy and enthusiasm.

Twenty-two of the country's top design talents have transformed the circa-1902 River Mansion into a haven for modern living—one that's full of personality. As can be expected, the historic building—previously home to actress Julia Marlowe and the Bronfman family—provided the designers and architects with their fair share of elements to enhance and obstacles to overcome when reimagining their spaces, from exposed piping and brick, to lackluster ceiling heights and floor plans. But not all history was left in the past. Some designers chose to embrace the bones of the house, showcasing clever ways to call attention to the details as well as add some of their own. If you want to see all the design magic for yourself, you can visit the show house in New York City beginning on Thursday May 11, 2023; it will be open to the public for one month. In the meantime, if you have a historic—or modern!—home with an odd floor plan, bulky HVAC system, or moldings you just don't know what to do with, read on to discover the tricks these experts used to hide (or highlight!) the home’s features.

Modernize Your Moldings

In a bedroom she calls "Flights of Fancy," Sasha Bickoff painted each element of the existing molding a different pastel hue for a candy-coated effect. Painting millwork in unexpected colors can be a fun way to highlight this traditional feature.

detail of a sasha bickoff designed bedroom at the kips bay show house
Nickolas Sargent

Minimize Your Millwork

Another creative idea for trim: Opt to ignore the millwork by quite literally painting outside the lines. That's what designer Jay Jeffers did within the library, creating a two-toned surround by coating the walls, molding, bookcases, and even books in contrasting Benjamin Moore paint colors, Greystone and Rustique.

jay jeffers library at kips bay show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

Play Up Paneling

Choose to embrace paneling by accentuating the inlay with a patterned or textured wall covering—or even warped glass, as Yellow House Architects did in the foyer of the show house using custom glass by Atelier Barrois.

a room by yellow house architects at the kips bay show house ny 2023
Marco Ricca

Split the Difference

A partial dropped ceiling conceals the HVAC unit in the bathroom, a modern necessity that was added to the 1902 home long after the original rooms were built. Designer Ahmad AbouZanat of Project AZ let the uneven ceiling guide his design, using Fireclay Tiles in two opposing colors to extend the depth of the room. While the white tiles provide an illusion of space under the lower ceiling, the rust colored tiles draw the eye up and out into a serene, spa-like bath area.

bathroom by project az at the kips bay ny show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

Pull Focus

As the team of Fairfax Dorn Projects demonstrates in this laundry room, you can draw the eye away from the dropped ceiling concealing the HVAC unit by applying a beautiful wallpaper to the four surrounding walls. This Jennifer Shorto Pompeii wallpaper is sure to demand attention.

laundry room by fairfax dorn at the kips bay show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

Beam Pipes Up and Away

A couple of skillfully applied pieces of wood cleverly conceal unsightly piping in this drawing room designed by Neal Beckstedt of Neal Beckstedt Studio. He fashioned a faux beam to hide away the industrial-looking pipes that would have altered the ambience of this creative haven.

drawing room by neal beckstedt at the kips bay show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

Soften the Scene

Exposed brick walls are great—but don't fit the mood of the fresh, inviting living room Timothy Corrigan Inc envisioned, which the designer calls "Spring Fever." When creating the lounge-like fireplace seating, the designer disguised a brick wall by draping it in "Chateau Silk Damask" fabric from the Timothy Corrigan collection for Schumacher.

spring fever living room by timothy corrigan at kips bay show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

Reshape the Room

The space the team at Sawyer | Berson worked with had exposed pipes at one end and a weight-bearing pole at the other. They took the idea of concealing these industrial details one step (or several steps) further by creating a room within a room to build the Marlow Lounge. Building new walls within the original room also provided the opportunity to add desired architectural details like curved walls and a port window in front of the room's original window.

marlow lounge by sawyer person at kips bay show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

Go Organic

To add a sense of movement to a boxy bathroom, Design Studio 15 turned to organic shapes like the arched passway they created leading into the attached closet.

design studio 15 bathroom at kips bay show house 2023 nickolas sargent
Nickolas Sargent

Layer Lavishly

New York-based interior designer Ghislaine Viñas added dimension and texture to the walls of a living room by topping neutral plaid wallpaper with art from artist Mark Mulroney. He applied paint and felt cut-outs atop the paper to bring whimsy into the space and refer to elements in the house's past.

ghislaine verlaine room for the kips bay show house 2023
Nickolas Sargent

Set a Scene

Decorative panels of Calico Wallpaper's Scenic print leaves guests feeling that they've walked through the walls to bring nature inside, an effect designer Lillian Wu sought for the kitchen she's named "Wilderness."

lillian wu designed kitchen for kips bay show house 2023
Nickolas Sargent

Think Outside the Frame

Kesha Franklin of Halden Interiors designed "a safe space that felt protected by the beauty of nature," with a mix of bold and delicate details throughout the den, pictured at the top of this article. For an immersive experience in its stairwell, she extended the meadow captured in the background of the stunning photo by South African artist Pieter Hugo by having Judith Sipos of Nono Art paint a mural with the same flowers onto the walls.

stairway of the kips bay show house designed by halden interiors, shot by nickolas sargent
Nickolas Sargent

Surround Yourself

Extend wallpaper to the fifth wall so that it's above, as well as around, you. In this bedroom, Sasha Bikoff opted for Calico Wallpaper's Atmosphere pattern with clouds all around for a celestial vibe.

sasha bickoff designed bedroom for kips bay show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

Bring In Some Shine

Traditional can still be fabulous. Just ask designer Clive Lonstein, who added antique mirrored glass molding to glam up this dressing area.

clive lonstein dressing room 2023 © rodolfo martinez

Add Some Interest

The kitchen of the house was one space that was bereft of the ornate millwork in the other rooms. To honor the house's history while also adding one-of-a-kind detailing, designer Wesley Moon brought in custom plaster molding created in collaboration with Hyde Park Mouldings.

wesley moon kitchen area at the kips bay show house
Nickolas Sargent

Try a Trellis

Add dimension in the smallest of spaces by incorporating trellis-like wainscoting, as Lindsey Coral Harper of LCH Interiors incorporated into this powder room.

lch interiors powder room at the kips bay show house 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

Fake a Garden

Trellises are trending outdoors, too. Everyone knows curb appeal is a big deal. Ideally, the surrounding landscape should complement a home, framing it with symmetrical shrubs, flowers, or trees. If you're dealing with tricky restrictions, like little to no yard, using planters and trellises like Janice Parker Landscape Architects did with Pleached Linden Trees in front of the show house is a natural solution.

janice parker landscaping at kips bay show house, 2023 © nickolas sargent photography
Nickolas Sargent

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