The Finish Line: Inside Jeff Gordon's New York City Home
Racing legend Jeff Gordon turned to his pit crew of design pros and his discerning wife to create the ultimate Manhattan apartment.
Jeff Gordon and Belgian-born former model Ingrid Vandebosch, in New York City’s ever-evolving NoMad district, the first thing visitors notice—the thing they absolutely cannot help noticing—is the hallway. It’s impossibly long. Hang a right from the entryway, and there’s a large living room, with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto Madison Square Park. Hang a left, and you eventually end up in the couple’s bedroom, where the windows look onto 27th Street. Yes, you have walked an entire city block inside one apartment.
“It’s 42 lunges,” jokes Vandebosch, 46, as we head toward the bedroom. “I tried it out.” “People always think there’s a mirror,” says Gordon, 45, who retired from full-time racing in 2015 but still participates in pro races. Kristine Greenblatt, senior design director at Pembrooke & Ives and lead designer of the apartment, adds: “I walked ten miles in here one day. I’m not kidding—I looked it up on my iPhone.” Most of the hallway is covered by a long, sandstone-colored rug made on several looms but all a single piece lengthwise. When I ask if the rug manufacturer was surprised by the dimensions submitted (33⁄4 feet by 102 feet), Greenblatt says, “They were happy.” Andrew Sheinman, P&I’s founder, wryly adds: “They charge by the inch.”
The couple moved to the four-unit prewar building (where they count Jennifer Lopez and Chelsea Clinton among their neighbors) a little less than two years ago, after leaving a smaller property uptown, at 15 Central Park West. The arrival of their second child, Leo (joining their daughter, Ella), had them feeling a bit cramped.
NoMad, or Manhattan for that matter, may hardly seem the redoubt for a superstar of that most down-home of American sports, NASCAR. (Its fans are far more likely to live in the rural South or Midwest.) “It is a rarity,” Gordon says, noting, however, that fellow driver Jimmie Johnson owns real estate in New York City, as does the top executive of NASCAR itself. In the past, Gordon would travel to the city on business—to meet with his agent or Fortune 500 heads. When he met Vandebosch, he says, he “was introduced to a whole new New York.” Asked how he finds navigating the streets by car, he laughs. “I love driving here,” he says, “because the lines on the road don’t mean anything. That’s how a racetrack is.”
Turning to Pembrooke & Ives—which has done scores of houses in the Hamptons and West Palm Beach, and is gradually moving into luxury development projects, like the nearby 212 Fifth Avenue—was an easy choice for the couple. They had already worked with the firm on their previous New York City apartment, as well as their neo-Georgian home in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the family spends most of the year, primarily for Gordon’s work. (In addition to doing race commentary for Fox, he is an equity owner of Charlotte-based Hendrick Motorsports, his former team.)
Sitting in front of a mock fireplace in the bedroom, on a 1960s Italian chair, Vandebosch says she and Sheinman have developed an intensely collaborative process. Her passion for design, she says, is derived from her years modeling on the road. (She confesses to being an “Aman hotels junkie.”)
Of course, design is often the art of the possible. Sheinman gestures to the fireplace, which in reality is a nonfunctioning alcove of marble inside a walnut-clad wall, in which a handful of painted white logs is arrayed. A moiré painted portrait (which slowly reveals its subject to be Vandebosch herself) by the artist Robert Lazzarini hangs above. “If we had any dispute at all, it was this fireplace,” Gordon says. “Ingrid wanted a fireplace. I said you can’t have a fireplace in New York City.” Various electric options were looked at and dismissed. “This is what we settled on, and I love it,” Vandebosch says. “It’s the feature of the room now,” Sheinman says. “Ingrid’s persistence paid off.”
When I sense that Gordon has been a bit quiet, I ask him about his design input. “I have nothing to do with this!” he says, laughing. And there is nary a trace of his former profession on the apartment walls. He will, he allows, make functional inquiries: “Where will the outlets go?”
The apartment overall has a light, airy, Scandinavian feel to it, with lots of whites and natural woods. The furniture is a wide-ranging mix, new and vintage, name designers and obscure finds without provenance, sourced by P&I with occasional contributions by Vandebosch, who scours places like 1stDibs. The living room, for instance, has a sofa by Vladimir Kagan, another by Jorge Zalszupin, and a pair of early-1970s Soriana lounge chairs by Tobia and Afra Scarpa for Cassina.
As light as it feels, there is also, owing to sheer size of the property, an undeniable scale to things. The custom table in the living room has an immensely thick tabletop because otherwise it would be swallowed up. The entry door was originally a simple white one flanked by sidelights. In its place P&I put a single, huge, metal-and-glass pivot door, a door so grand it had to be brought in through the windows. “I think I flew in 19 things that day,” Greenblatt says. But it’s not about the designer’s ego, Sheinman says; it’s about the client’s vision—which in this case was not in short supply. The more they can attach themselves to the project the better. “They have an idea,” he says, “and we take it to the power of ten.”
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