In the interior design world, the New York–based ELLE DECOR A-List firm Redd Kaihoi is a go-to for maximalist, color-on-color decorating executed at the highest standards. The principals, Miles Redd and David Kaihoi, seemingly have never met a fire-engine red or kelly green they did not like. So on a recent afternoon, as Redd toured me through the interiors of their latest project, a four-bedroom duplex penthouse in Manhattan, perhaps the biggest surprise was that the rooms are all dressed in neutrals, with not a single bright hue to be found.

“Our clients, who moved here from California, didn’t want a typical Upper East Side apartment,” Redd says. He and Kaihoi had previously worked with the couple on homes that were more in keeping with their signature bold approach. “Usually, we do like a fair amount of color,” the client says. “But in New York, it felt right that the palette should be more subdued.”

a dining room has tall curtained glass french doors opening onto a terrace, a lacquered oval table with curved legs surrounded by leather chairs, a neutral colored rug, looping brass tube chandelier
A lacquered ceiling floats over fluted plaster walls in the dining room. The Georgian table is from Elisabeth James Antiques, the vintage dining chairs are Brazilian, the chandelier is by Astele, and the curtains are of a Muriel Brandolini fabric.
Noe DeWitt

A restrained strategy also suited the apartment’s setting in a new Art Deco–influenced building by the architect Peter Pennoyer. Inspired by the work of American architects Ely Jacques Kahn and Ralph Thomas Walker, Pennoyer fashioned a 19-story structure with a handsome facade in hand-cut Indiana limestone with mullioned windows, cast-iron railings, and lanterns—harking back to a time when details were considered and handmade. The goal, Pennoyer has said, was to create a structure that can “both belong to its place by completing the streetscape, and to stand on the sky plane.”

Tour This Quietly Glamorous Duplex Penthouse
a living room with tall curtained windows has a sectional sofa along two walls, armchairs, a cocktail and side tables with lamps, a fireplace with mirror above it and leather benches facing it, paper pendant

To ensure that the interior architecture of their apartment was in keeping with the building’s intent, the clients also tapped architect Elizabeth Graziolo. A former partner in Pennoyer’s company, she had played an instrumental role in the design of the building. Later, when she started her own highly acclaimed firm, Yellow House Architects, Graziolo was brought on board to work alongside the designers. She added finesse with details that merge couture with classicism, from the dining room’s fluted plaster walls to the linen-fold paneling on the walls in the book-lined family room and the brass mesh treatment in the primary dressing room.

in a kitchen is a wooden island with a light marble top, three stools with sage green leather seats, two shiny pendants, white cabinets with a black backsplash, and a breakfast nook by the windows
In the kitchen, Mies van der Rohe stools are upholstered in a Moore & Giles leather. The pendants are by Ann-Morris and fittings by Waterworks.
Noe DeWitt

Meanwhile, Redd and Kaihoi set out to fulfill the clients’ wish of an atypical interior on the Upper East Side, where politeness too often stifles passion. In this case, mission accomplished. In rooms with nearly 12-foot ceilings, the sun now pours in like honey. As one enters through an enfilade, light streams in from four directions, energizing the entire space. Mirrors cleverly amplify and extend the natural light. “I never met a mirror that I didn’t like,” Redd says. “It is like having another window in a room.”

Extolling the talents of the decorative artist Augustin Hurtado (the New York Post once described him as “the secret weapon of Fifth Avenue”), Redd pauses to admire the shells that the artist has subtly embedded in Venetian plaster. The kitchen’s white walls, also in Venetian plaster, take on a golden hue as the sunlight comes round from the east. In the library, Hurtado created another finish that appears like faux parchment. And the dining room’s ceiling gleams in multiple coats of cream lacquer.

in a primary bedroom is a brown floral canopied bed with upholstered headboard, nightstands with lamps, armchair, cushioned bench, and curtains in matching floral fabric, a tan sofa and an ornate mirror above it
In the primary bedroom, the bed has a canopy in a de Le Cuona crewelwork fabric. The bed linens are by Serena & Lily, the nightstands by Rose Tarlow, the sofa is by Sutherland, and porcelain lamp (left) by MichaelS. Smith Inc.
Noe DeWitt

As you look south from the entrance, an Isamu Noguchi Akari lantern in the living room glows through the vantage point of an arch. The lantern is new, while the furniture is mostly from the family’s home in California, with a few added pieces—a 1930s Pierre Chareau bergère in the living room, a pair of curvy Michael Wolk swivel chairs in an ivory bouclé in the library—that echo the building’s Art Deco influences. The choice of the Noguchi pendant as opposed to anything more formal is central to how Redd and Kaihoi satisfied their clients’ request that the apartment feel laid-back. “The play of tension, the organic next to the geometric” was essential to creating an unstuffy atmosphere, Redd says. “It has that sort of Halston-at-the-beach chic that gives the place its relaxed vibe.”

So, too, do step-back terraces that the landscape design company Harrison Green has created to embrace the city skylines and views of Central Park. Meanwhile, in the primary bedroom, the walls are lined in white felt, supple and quiet as fresh Alpine snow. It’s a pared-down aesthetic that, in the end, is as impactful as anything the firm has done. “I do think this is an opportunity for people to see us in a new light,” Redd says. “Sure, we are known for our color, and people come to us for that, but I always tell them that white and black are colors too. In fact, my favorite colors.”

summer 2023 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE