Architectural Digest

September 19, 2019–Cara Gibbs

Deborah Berke Brings Her Work Home for a Residential Building in Her Own Neighborhood

Building soaring structures may be second nature for Deborah Berke Partners, but for Berke herself, the firm’s latest project was also rather personal. The 100,000-square-foot 40 East End Avenue is nestled in the Upper East Side’s Yorkville section, a quiet enclave filled with character as well as historic façades. It’s also been Berke’s home for the past 25 years. AD PRO caught up with Berke to hear how she conceived the building she’ll see every day.

Project Details

Name: 40 East End

Design Team: Deborah Berke and Stephen Brockman of Deborah Berke Partners (Architecture and Interior Architecture), Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel (Managing Architects)

Size: 100,000 square feet

Location: Manhattan’s Upper East Side

The kitchen
The kitchen looks out over the East River and Queens.Photo: Tim Williams Photography

AD PRO: Did you have any immediate must-haves going into this project?

Deborah Berke: It was important to us to design a building that contributed, in a 21st-century way, to the context of the neighborhood. The materials are substantial and grounded, textured and rooted in quality, and flecked with windows to embrace the outdoors.

AD PRO: You live in the same neighborhood as the project. What was it like to literally bring your work home with you?

DB: I’ve lived in the neighborhood for over 25 years, and I care about it deeply. It’s a calm, quiet, family-filled neighborhood with wonderful parks and big trees. It was so special to design something that I am uniquely passionate about.

AD PRO: Speaking of the outdoors, the floor-to-ceiling windows really offer a great view of the East River. How much did your design for the interiors work around the vista?

DB: The views were one of the most important aspects of the design. The layouts of the apartments celebrate the sweeping urban and river views. We wanted to encourage residents to look out; to enjoy the strong, clear morning light—and the changing afternoon light over the trees. We knew the views were going to be great, but it’s been wonderful, as the building has gone up, so see how truly spectacular they are.

a living room
The living room of the model unit at 40 East End Avenue, designed by Deborah Berke Partners.Photo: Tim Williams Photography

AD PRO: Who, theoretically, were you designing the model unit for?

DB: I imagined a downtown family who was moving uptown but still wanted to keep their “cool” factor. Rooms began to develop specific personas, unique unto themselves, while seamlessly transitioning from one to the next. Each space is considered individually, but also as one in a sequence of spaces that are used differently throughout the day.

AD PRO: There are a lot of soft, modern notes met with bold and artistic moments, like a hand-painted wall mural. How did you blend these contrasting styles?

DB: I love Scandinavian design—it’s extremely livable but also stylish. It can also be combined with family pieces, antiques, and a wide range of art, including bolder design statements. Every apartment should have a moment of zing.