It’s thirty-six hundred miles from the stone quarries of Oise, France, to the corner of Hudson and Duane streets in Tribeca. But to touch the cool white wood-burning fireplace in Apartment 5B at 161 Duane Street is to touch the Château de Versailles, for both make use of the same smooth French stone. It’s a sublime act of stonemasonry, and one of many architectural conversation-starters in this singularly stylish 2,403-square-foot duplex condominium, our home of the day.
Architect Claude Puaux led the interior design, working to realize the vision of 5B’s owner, a lauded master of French cuisine. To that end, Puaux engaged teams of old-world artisans to infuse the place with authentic Frenchness — a colorful, tactile mix of materials and treatments, carefully specified to evoke the ambiance of a rustic Chantilly manor house.
In the upper-level great room — which measures a very great 25 feet by 42 feet — floors are smooth, quarter-sawn walnut planking and ceilings are beamed. A château-style plank door with ancient iron hinges dominates the south wall and leads to a private elevator entrance, and a trio of giant double-hung windows fills the exposed-brick west wall, with built-in walnut bench seating for a cozy treetop view of Duane Park across the street. There are expansive parlor and dining areas, and a suitably pro-ready kitchen with countertops of shimmering Port Laurent marble from Morocco.
The lower level, reached via a custom-made half-turn staircase, features three bedrooms and a library, all with polished basket-weave oak and walnut parquet floors inspired by a 16th-century Italian villa.
And Apartment 5B’s address, the two-building Mohawk Atelier, is as uncommon as its 12 residences. A seven-story Romanesque-Revival masterpiece from 1892 abuts an unassuming four-story Greek Revival building from 1845, formerly home to a whalebone-cutting workshop, a print shop, a coffee and tea merchant, a boarding house, and, for a few years, New York City’s “Colored School No. 5,” one of a few academies established in the 19th century to serve the city’s African-American children.