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Restoring Purity on Park Avenue

Entrepreneur and designer Francisco Costa transforms a New York City apartment into a minimalist, serene oasis

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For Brazilian designer Francisco Costa, it’s always been about minimalism, modernity and light. So when he first toured the classic Park Avenue corner apartment that would become his home, he was put off by the traditional, dark interiors. The iconic limestone building was built in 1917 by renowned architect Emery Roth and the famed Bing and Bing developers. “It had great bones, proportions and high ceilings, but one needed to open up the spaces,” says Costa, who lives in the apartment with his longtime partner, horse trainer and real estate broker John DeStefano. “I wanted it to exude a calm and grandness without being grand.” And so followed a nine-month gut renovation to restore the parquet floors, rebuild the walls to widen the corridors, replace all the doors (the 23 new ones boast recessed Harmon hinges and are very special to Costa) and strip away a lot of the heaviness, like ornate moldings. They also moved and enlarged the kitchen, removed the formal dining room and created a butler’s pantry.

Working with designers Alexander Poma and Leslie Steven of Pomasteven, Costa was able to reinterpret the space in a modern way, without any clutter or distractions. To this end, the walls and ceilings are painted uniformly in Benjamin Moore Paper White. The result is an airy, loft-like home that has a fluid flow and great symmetry. “I saw the greatness of the space itself and I respectfully brought down all the excess and made it into a real modern, loft-like space with elegant proportions,” says Costa. “It’s not opulent. It’s very edited and zen for us.”

The space is a perfect blank slate to showcase a mix of furnishings that the couple have collected over the years; some are new and custom-made, some are sourced from auction houses and others from vintage stores. “The emotional aspect of finding objects to fill the home is very important to me,” explains Costa. “Everything I have here is extremely personal. I love the hunt for objects, and I love discovering something new about every object that I own.” Costa is a collector with a meticulous eye who has so many special pieces amassed over the years, he doesn’t have enough homes to display them. He is also an avid art collector, with pieces in the home by Guillermo Kuitca, Bruce Nauman, Susan Rothenberg, Cecily Brown and Jeff Koons.

The former Calvin Klein Collection creative director launched his wellness and skincare brand Costa Brazil two years ago with a strong Brazilian DNA that felt genuine and authentic, so having a new home with lots of space for business meetings and entertaining was crucial. “It’s a great way to display our lifestyle for Costa Brazil,” says Costa, who can always be found in the living room. And while the apartment is pristine and peaceful, the couple loves to entertain and host friends for drinks and dinner in an effortless way (Nicky Hilton, jewelry designer Ana Khouri and actress Camilla Belle have all been guests in the art-filled home). “Friends are always coming over for casual buffet dinners and end up mingling by the bar and in the kitchen, which is the soul of the home.” And this one has a lot of heart.