Actress Emmy Rossum, who plays the frequently frazzled Fiona Gallagher in Showtime's Shameless, grew up on the East Side of Manhattan, but until recently, she had never had a place of her own in New York. When she came to the city, she stayed with her mother, photographer Cheryl Rossum, in the apartment in which Emmy grew up. But all that changed when the popular actress bought a one-bedroom co-op in a prewar building near the East River. And while she liked the vibe of the place, it needed work— so much work. She dubbed her new home the "pied-à-teardown."
Rossum ed ELLE DECOR to ask for help, and the magazine agreed to pitch in. The magazine suggested several designers, and she chose Brooklyn-born Antonino Buzzetta, whose signature style is a modern-minded take on traditional glamour. ELLE DECOR then arranged for some of the best home-furnishings manufacturers in the business to sponsor the transformation as partners and benefactors, including Kallista, Circa Lighting, Rocky Mountain Hardware, and Ann Sacks, with accessories to be provided by Horchow.
The living room of actress Emmy Rossum's New York City apartment, which was decorated by , has armchairs by , a sofa by featuring a suzani throw by , a 1940s cocktail table and an antique Persian rug. The bench is upholstered in a velvet, and a photograph by Emmy's mother, and a lithograph are positioned on the 19th-century Louis XV–style replace, which Rossum and her mother found in Paris.
What Rossum wanted, she told Buzzetta, was "chic, European, the look of a modern girl who has inherited her grandmother's stuff. I wanted it to have a young energy, but with old-fashioned touches," she says. Her own taste is radically different from her mother's. Her childhood home, she reports, was white and gray with low-slung Italian furniture, a streamlined environment with virtually no decorative accessories.
Chairs by upholstered in fabrics by surround a dining table by Baker; the photographs are by , the large ceramic pot is from , the chandelier came from Rossum's house in Los Angeles and the walls are painted in .
Buzzetta's goal for the 800-square-foot apartment was to evoke the era in which it was built, in 1928, with architectural details that look as if they might be original, but with a more loftlike floor plan and savvier style. His immediate assessment was that the pied-à-teardown was just that: It had good light, but it needed gutting. "You walked in," he remembers, "and there were doors everywhere, doors to closets so small you couldn't fit anything into them." Additionally, the kitchen was cut off from the rest of the apartment, the ceilings had been dropped, the dining area was lined in bookcases, and "there was a lot of red."
The dining area before the renovation.
After working out the plan with Rossum, Buzzetta unleashed a demolition crew last December. When the sawdust settled, he says, "the only thing left was the floor"—and he even considered replacing that. Stripping out original white-oak herringbone floors, though, seemed unnecessary and expensive, so they decided to keep what they had and darken the wood. The dropped living room ceilings came down, of course, and beams went up, creating space-expanding coffers with deep moldings painted a dazzling white. You wouldn't guess it on first glance, but everything in the apartment is new.
In the living room, a lamp on a bar cart from ; the photograph is by and the picture light is by .
Not even the antique fireplace is original. Rossum and her mother bought it at the Marché aux Puces in Paris. "We FedExed it back to New York," says the actress. "It was amazing that it showed up perfectly packaged and absolutely ne a week later. I love the idea that I have a replace from a trip to France I took with my mother. It's so sentimental and nice. If I ever move, I'll have to rip the replace out and take it with me."
One of the apartment's great selling points for Rossum was the living room's wall of iron-framed casement windows. "We had the same kind of windows when I was growing up," she remembers, although nearly 90 years of paint and grime had rendered these only minimally operable. So they were taken out and sent off to be refurbished. "It was a wall of cardboard for a few weeks," says Rossum, acknowledging that the cost was ridiculous. "I mean, maybe I could have gotten in there with Windex and a toothbrush," she imagines. Yet some things are worth the money. "The wall of windows was way more expensive to restore than to just buy a new one," says Buzzetta, "but keeping something original to an old building is fantastic. It's a great architectural feature. It has history, and now it actually works. In a lot of New York apartments, you can't even open the windows."
In the kitchen, the range and hood are by , the cabinets are by , the antique runner is from and the photograph is by .
The kitchen was fitted with new custom cabinets by Scavolini that hide the refrigerator, dishwasher, and washer/dryer. The apartment's one small bathroom was completely lined with marble. Buzzetta designed a bathroom vanity topped by a thick slab of Calacatta Borghini marble and with an undermounted stainless steel sink. In the grayish-blue bedroom—the one room not painted a neutral—the closets were given a custom treatment by the Container Store that make them as efficient as the galley of a yacht.
The custom vanity has ttings by , the walls, sink and floor are lined in , the medicine cabinet is by and the sconce is by .
Both the living room and the bedroom are anchored with decorative rugs, the one in the living room an impressively large and detailed antique Persian. "We brought in tons of rugs," says Buzzetta. "Because the colors are so rich, and they change all the time with the light, you have to see them in place to know if they work." "It's the same reason you paint samples of different colors on the wall," Rossum says. "You have to see them."
The bed by is fitted with a mattress by and dressed in , the sconce is by , the chest is by and the rug is from ; the walls are painted in .
Construction and decoration took about seven months, and although many a homeowner is driven mad by the renovation process, Rossum embraced it. "I really liked the construction aspect of it," she says, "taking down the walls, solving problems. It can make you want to pull your hair out, but there's an amazing sense of accomplishment." She was so enamored of the process that her contractor put up live-feed cameras so she could watch the work progress in New York when she had to go back to California. And she's not afraid to do it again: "I'm hoping one day to gut a townhouse. That would just be the ultimate."
The custom closet is by the and the door hardware is from .
WHAT THE PROS KNOW
• Nothing gives instant glamour to a dining area like a crystal chandelier, and Rossum just happened to have a spare. "It was in my place in Los Angeles when I bought it, but the fixture wasn't right for the house, so I put it in storage. I knew I'd find a spot for it eventually," she says. Buzzetta had it cleaned and rewired and gave it a new canopy. He offset the baroque exuberance of the chandelier with clean-lined furniture. Forgoing a rug for the dining area had an additional modernizing effect.
Rossum in her living room.
• Rossum wanted easy access to her casement windows, so traditional curtains were out of the question. Buzzetta chose a white-on-white silk from Cowtan & Tout for Roman shades, which are soft but not fussy. The subtle floral pattern of the fabric further mitigates the strict geometry of the window frames. In the bedroom, he kept the Roman shades even simpler with a plain off-white linen but added blackout roller shades behind them and stationary curtain panels in a Cowtan & Tout stripe for extra luxury.
This story was originally published in the November 2016 issue of ELLE DECOR.