A Rare Look Inside a Home in NYC’s Most Exclusive Neighborhood

This two-story Gramercy Park apartment is filled with historic charm and plenty of colors.

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


It should come as no surprise that nearby Manhattan’s most elusive park therein exists an equally renowned block of residential dwellings. NYC’s Gramercy Park has a long-standing history as one of the city’s most exclusive areas. Dating back to the early 1830s, the private park was built as a retreat for residents, with each household allotted a pair of keys to the park. Since then, it has grown to be one of the more exclusive areas in the country, standing in as one of two private parks in the city. Recently, we had the opportunity for a rare glimpse inside one of the residential apartments surrounding the park. The space is home to floral designer Melina Luna, her husband Jacob Smith, the Rector of the historic Calvary-St. George’s Church, and their two kids, Sophia and Henry. Situated in the heart of Manhattan, the Gramercy Park residence is comprised of a two-story, 5,000 sq ft home featuring four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and plenty of open space. 

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


Originally a mansion, it was taken down to make way for the construction of the current building with the intention of establishing a space for the community. A handful of elements from the mansion were incorporated into the present-day home: a butler’s pantry, original French doors and windows, as well as the grand staircase in the entry. 

In its original state, the home was painted in a bright shade of green, with touches of blue and pink. Luna’s primary goal was to establish a space that would instill an inviting detail, honoring and preserving the historical integrity of the home. When settling on a palette for the home, Luna opted for white walls with a hint of pink, setting a backdrop that would allow her to integrate a more bold range of colors through art, textiles, and furnishings. The inclusion of the moodier shades—black, blue, and a timeless gray—were reserved for the entry and den, as well as the historic doors found within the home. “I made these choices so our home would feel grounded and fluid as our design choices change over time,” says Luna of the color scheme.  

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


In designing a home that would come to honor the existing historical structure, Luna notes that a warm and inviting space was key—"I have created relaxed spaces, like the den or the children’s play room,” she says. "There are definite challenges in protecting the beauty and elegance of a space all the while truly living in the home.”

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


Most of the furnishings in the home come decked with textiles and decorative pillows Luna sourced from her travels abroad. 

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


The home’s history is a deeply rooted one. Edith Wharton, author of The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, spent many days perched in front of this very fireplace, which now stands in as the focal point of the living room. 

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


On where she draws inspiration for her decor, Luna attributes travel—Northern Ireland, Paris, and Mexcio—along with her daily Instagram perusal. You may regularly find her wandering through ABC Carpet & Home or any of John Derian’s shops in the city. “I am drawn towards an aesthetic that is grounded in strong colors choices, yet poses a whimsical nature found in the playfulness in accessories and art.”

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


While many of the photographs around the home have been taken by Luna herself, she has also garnered a collection of prints from Jenny’s Print Shop as well as paintings by artist Chris Anderson. "Our gallery wall is constantly revolving. I love the combination of dark and muted selections mixed with a pop of modern found in bright neons," says Luna, "some of my favorite art pieces are by the kids."

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


The light-filled dining room serves two primary functions: as Luna’s floral studio and a space for dinner parties. During the day, you’ll likely find the lengthy table covered in an abundant array of fresh florals while at night it’ll be typically surrounded by guests for an intimate dinner party. The family prides themselves on their open door policy garnered from the intention that their space remain a shared space where friends and family can find a creative and nurtured reprieve. 

Luna’s affinity for florals began a decade ago, following a move from the West Coast. Unlike the bare desert landscape she had grown up around in Arizona, New York provided opportunities centered around a seemingly endless stream of blooms. Luna’s foray into floral design more or less stemmed from word-of-mouth. She began by experimenting for dinner parties and soon it took off. “For me, florals has become my medium,” says Luna, “they capture flow, color, shape, and design.”

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


From there, Little Joy NYC was born, with the premise of helping people connect to the sense of nourishment that comes from the creative play and collaborative work involved. Luna, who attributes her inspirations to creatives from the likes of Saipua to Putnam and Putnam, and Dutch Master Adriaen Coorte, to name a few. “My number one source of imagination and inspiration can be drawn from the open creativity of Frida Kahlo. Her work was endless in possibility and deeply connected to the fleeting moments of beauty and life. Frida’s use of color and expression is without restraint, I hope to achieve the same the same freedom and movement," says Luna. 

"I am always well stocked in candles, which I source from Flying Tiger and the floral market. If your looking to create some drama, go high and in abundance when approaching lighting. Some tapers are 36 inches, show stopper....sometimes we need a little pop."

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


On her favorite spot in her home, Luna looks to the cozy nook in the living room, outfitted with a blush pink chair near a wall of windows overlooking Gramercy Park. The chair, which is a ($25!) thrift shop find, is where Luna goes to read, work, and reflect. "I had the fortune of having a family who traveled to Mexico often. I was exposed to the vibrant florals, life, and textiles that are a part of my heritage.”

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


"We all love a mood board, most folks have them in offices or in nooks in their bedrooms," says Luna, "I decided to create my mood board in the kitchen, because much of life happens in our kitchen nook. When approaching the nook I always consider three things; life, inspiration, and relevance." Among the array of curated pieces found on Luna's ever-changing mood board, a revolving slew of plants are a constant mainstay—"As the seasons change, I always love to have interesting cactus, indoor ferns, or succulents for highlight our wall."

The table, which is a repainted Target find, comes paired with vintage-esque seats from ABC Carpet & Home and bench crafted from sanded plywood. 

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


Originally from Arizona, Luna grew up surrounded by the desert. “We had big sky, mountains, and plenty of cactus,” recalls Luna. “Living florals were not in our home or garden, but they could be found in the textiles of our home.” The precedent is a theme that Luna has carried with herself since then, incorporating the similar scope of decorative details in her home. Many of the textiles found within her home were sourced from travels to Geneva, the Hudson River Valley, as well as the Gramercy Park Vintage shop. “My rule of thumb is always say yes to textiles while traveling, you never know if you’ll need new pillows,” says Luna, “the best travel souvenirs are found in the unlikely.”

The guest room, aptly named 'Arizona' bears a decorative tribute to Luna's home state. 

photography by AARON BENGOCHEA


Pro-Tip: If you ever find yourself in Geneva, Switzerland, don't miss out on the Salvation Army store, they house quite the impressive array of imported rugs. "When you think of Geneva we all think of watches and chocolates," says Luna, "pop into your local thrift shop and you never know what treasures you will find."

Published on November 28, 2017 - 3:48pm EST

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