Blending Historic Grandeur With Modern Amenities at the Robert Couturier-Designed Upper East Side Tower

Hayes Davidson/Courtesy Robert A.M. Stern Architects

The new ground-up 15-story luxury condominium building is situated on one of the most stunning blocks on the Upper East Side.

There's no question New York City is experiencing a real estate building boom. New, often modern, buildings are popping up all over the Big Apple. But there's one more intimate project being completed that embraces a more classic aesthetic with a modern sensibility. And it's thanks to the unique partnership between Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) and designer Robert Couturier, who marks 150 East 78th Street as his first full-scale residential building.


Hayes Davidson/Courtesy Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Couturier, known for his private home commissions for high-profile clients such as socialite Anne Hearst and the Rothschild family, was excited to tackle a project where he came up with a design before a single resident moved in. "It's always exciting to do something you've never done," Couturier told Departures. "It was the first time I was on the other end planning the apartment, and it was nice to start from scratch."

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He collaborated with RAMSA—known for creating some of Manhattan's most prominent residential buildings like 220 Central Park South, 15 Central Park West, and 70 Vestry—to outfit the 25 three- to five-bedroom residences as well as the lobby and communal spaces. The goal was to complement the traditional architectural lineage inspired by the nearby historic and landmarked buildings reflecting the Upper East Side's tradition. 

"We took our inspiration for the great New York apartment buildings of the early 20th century, like the Dakota," Daniel Lobitz, Partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, told us. "Our strategy was to continue the pattern of shops that exist along Lexington Avenue in that area and, at the same time, pick up on the residential character of the townhouses on 78th street. Working within that classical tradition, we tried to give the building a strong personality and a really specific personality."


Hayes Davidson/Courtesy Robert A.M. Stern Architects

The result was architectural details like handset Indiana limestone, patterned brick, rich green metalwork, arched windows, and a stunning crown that includes a rooftop terrace framed by brick and limestone archways. This is the first buildings where the firm has incorporated a series of arches with green treillage at the crown of the building, yet another nod to the Upper East Side tradition. 

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As far as the interior, the tradition can be found in the layout of the residences. "We like to create well defined and well-proportioned rooms," said Lobitz. "And there are private elevator lobbies for almost every unit, another great upper East side tradition. From that little private elevator lobby, you walk into your foyer and then can flow into the clearly defined rooms of the apartment." 


Hayes Davidson/Courtesy Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Some aspects of that era no longer made sense like small bathrooms, limited closet space, and kitchens used by the staff. So, the team opted for an eat-in kitchen, large bathrooms, generous closets, larger windows, and a suite of amenities to embrace a more modern living style.

"People no longer want one big open living space," said Couturier, an AD100 designer. "They want separate living areas to make it feel more like a house. So, I help define them in that way." He did that by using inswing casement windows, oak wood flooring, and partnering with Christopher Peacock—known for his beautiful hand-crafted classic British cabinetry—to design a custom kitchen.


Hayes Davidson/Courtesy Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Beyond the individual residences, Couturier also wanted to ensure the common spaces would appease the residents' varying styles and stick with the classic-meets-contemporary design. That starts with the material-rich octagonal-shaped lobby.

"The lobby strikes the right note because you arrive home at the end of the day, and you want to feel like it's welcoming, inviting, and intimate," said Lobitz. "And at the same time has a certain elegance, panache, and style. I think Robert captured that."

Ultimately, RAMSA and Couturier wanted to create a space that felt like home. 


Hayes Davidson/Courtesy Robert A.M. Stern Architects

"The changes that COVID brought are here to stay," said Couturier. "I think the trend is starting where people will stay at home more. This building is cozy, reassuring, quiet, and gives you all these homey feelings. There are lots of different elements that make you want to stay at home."

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Lobitz added, "We tried to make it feel like an oasis in the heart of the city."

Currently under construction, 150 East 78th Street is slated to launch sales in late fall to early winter.