In the New York apartment of perfumer Kilian Hennessy and his wife, Elisabeth, is a nearly 12-foot-long Tribal dining table by the designer Ingrid Donat. The massive walnut piece had to be craned in through the window and has a circular, bronze-inlay pattern. “It has a Klimt-like feel to it,” says Elisabeth.
The couple came across it by accident. A friend had invited Elisabeth (who goes by Jones-Hennessy) to what they thought was a concert given by a violin ensemble called the Carpenters. But when they arrived, there were no musicians. Instead, it was a cocktail party at the Fifth Avenue outpost of the renowned design gallery Carpenters Workshop.
“It was really funny,” says Elisabeth. “All of a sudden we discovered this incredible jewel of a gallery we didn’t know existed.” Carpenters is something akin to the Gagosian of the design world, representing names such as Rick Owens, Nacho Carbonell, and the Campana brothers.
A member of the famous Hennessy Cognac clan, Kilian launched his namesake perfume brand in 2007 and met Elisabeth through his work. She was a buyer at Bergdorf Goodman before he hired her to be the CEO of the American division of his company. The acquisition of the business in 2016 by Estée Lauder led to a number of changes: Elisabeth sought a new career and founded her own lifestyle blog, while Kilian decided to make a more permanent base in New York.
He now splits his time between there and Paris, where he has two children from a previous marriage. While you could be forgiven for believing the couple had found a new passion for collecting contemporary design, their approach is actually rather more pragmatic. “We opted for new creations because you have to live with your times,” Kilian says. “For a collector, there’s always the notion of an investment, whereas I buy things solely because I fall in love with them and they fit the aesthetic of the space in which I live.”
The Donat table wasn’t the only acquisition they made from Carpenters Workshop. They also purchased the sinuous Frederik Molenschot chandelier, which hangs above it and used to be in the home of the gallery’s French cofounder, Julien Lombrail. “We said, ‘We’re not going to take your chandelier,’ ” says Kilian, “but his wife told us, ‘I’m used to it! This happens all the time.’”
Then, there’s the bronze Vincent Dubourg credenza that has become a point of contention. Kilian thinks it looks best with its deconstructed doors slightly ajar but Elisabeth prefers them closed. “I’m always secretly shutting them,” she says. Their new home took them some time to find. They wanted to be in downtown Manhattan, and, after visiting dozens of apartments in different areas, ended up choosing Tribeca.
“I wanted a neighborhood where there were only low-rises,” says Kilian. “Plus, it’s all cobblestones. It has a more European feel.” Their 1884 building once housed a bookbindery and now has a 75-foot lap pool, a 5,000-square-foot roof deck, and a private porte-cochere. They were drawn to their four-bedroom unit’s arched windows, wooden columns, and other architectural qualities. “It was chic, solid, and not ostentatious,” says Kilian.
To help them decorate, they consulted New York-based interior designer Chris Osvai, whose other clients include a member of the Rémy Martin Cognac family, Laure Hériard Dubreuil, who founded the Webster concept stores. Osvai sourced pieces and created a number of custom designs, including the extra large, ultra-plush velvet sofas in the living room.
The look in these spaces is dominated by eye-catching furniture and artworks and a largely black and white palette. “Kilian really likes a strong, sculptural moment,” says Osvai, “and the industrial feel of the space really lent itself to that.” Meanwhile, in the master bedroom, Elisabeth wanted an aesthetic that was softer and more romantic.
There’s pale blush-colored wallpaper behind a mounted Tracey Emin neon sculpture that reads "when I hold you I hold your heart" as well as a marble-and-brass coffee table by Vincenzo De Cotiis. Elisabeth’s favorite piece, however, is the vintage Italian commode, which was meant to house all her jewelry.
The chest turned out not to be big enough. “Once we got around to putting it into the trays, it was like, ‘Oh my God! Where do the bracelets go?’ ” says Osvai. “I’m a bit of a hoarder,” says Elisabeth. If there’s one piece bought particularly for Kilian, meanwhile, that would be yet another Carpenters Workshop find—an imposing Wendell Castle chair in the living room.
“It’s a monumental scale,” says Osvai, “but ironically it was the easiest thing to install.” The 58-inch wide stained-ash seat came in through the front elevator, was placed in the corner, and that’s where it stayed. “What I love is that it’s halfway between a throne and sculpture,” says Kilian. “It’s so majestic that no one dares to sit on it.”