After working in Asia for several years, sharpening her skills at major architecture firms like Kris Yao/Artech and Neri & Hu, Megan Grehl decided to tackle the American market. Born in Texas but raised in Hong Kong and Beijing, the designer had long dreamed of living in New York. Most importantly, she felt she had something unique to offer. “The first job I found in the city was helping Gabriel Scott launch a showroom in SoHo,” says Grehl, referring to the acclaimed furniture and lighting brand. “And when I looked at the invite list, which had all these recognizable names, I realized I could bring something different to the table.” What she means is that while projects in New York and other U.S. cities tend to involve renovations to existing structures, she had a lot of experience with ground-up construction and top-to-bottom customization. “I think my work in Asia allowed me to look at things more holistically, as opposed to having a piecemeal mentality,” she says.
Not long after launching her own studio in 2015—and simultaneously joining the team of designers at Homepolish—Grehl was hired by a couple who’d purchased a 5,000-square-foot apartment at the Apthorp, a historic Upper West Side condominium built in 1908. Aside from a series of colorful paint jobs, the home had been untouched for several decades and retained a host of original details. Both Grehl and the homeowners agreed that the property shouldn’t lose its prewar style. But where another designer might have worked around the apartment’s bones, Grehl planned a complete overhaul of the space, opting to re-create several turn-of-the-century flourishes instead of striving to preserve them.
“We wanted to bring the apartment up to modern times while respecting its history, and Megan was very much into that,” says dermatologist Eric Berkowitz, who shares the home with his wife, Claire Wolinsky, also a dermatologist, and their young children. To build the ample, soon-flooded library, for example, several walls were torn down. Yet thanks to faithfully replicated dentil moldings, classic chevron-patterned parquet floors, and built-in wooden bookshelves, you’d think the room was designed that way a century ago.
By contrast, there’s no doubt the apartment was decorated circa 2019. Nearly every room features bold contemporary artworks as well as a clever combination of furnishings from some of today’s most coveted brands and designers, including Patricia Urquiola, Tom Dixon, and Marcel Wanders. “I really like to play with a juxtaposition of modern, minimal lines and classic references, and create these yin and yang moments,” says Grehl. “It’s all about balance and harmony.”
An Inspiring Mix of Bold and Classic Details in an Iconic Prewar Edifice