"What I wanted most was just to love my environment,” said Madonna of her early 90's apartment, located in an unassuming brick building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The glamorous Art Déco inspired abode was designed and executed by Christoper Ciccone; her younger brother, former back-up dancer, and most trusted confidant (at the time...let's not discuss that tell-all book he wrote in 2008). The apartment was conceived as a low-key yet glamorous sanctuary, a place that would allow her, once inside, a temporary escape.
This sprawling UWS dwelling is quite the step up from her early 80's NYC apartment; a cockroach infested room on E4th Street & Ave C on the LES (now called the East Village). Here, the soon to be Queen of Pop slept on couch cushions she found in the trash.
Christopher had already designed the interiors of her Los Angeles mansion (which she gave him only ten days to complete) and Madonna never thought of having anyone else envision and execute her New York space. “Who could I have more in common with than someone I grew up with?” Madonna said of her choice of interior designer. “We like the same things, from music to what we eat.” Christopher, who was wholly self-taught in the area of interior design and who had no formal art training, also designed the stage sets for Madonna's 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour, which was the setting for the documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare. In 1993, he would design and direct her Girlie Show World Tour.
Madonna and Christopher, 1983
“I wanted to create a New York apartment. In Los Angeles the living spaces are big, wide open. There are loftlike attributes to them, and also the feeling of living in a penthouse. In New York I wanted to make a space for her that was elegant without being weak, peaceful without being boring. She prefers New York to Los Angeles because when she’s here she can relax. There’s a city here—you feel you are with people, living with the rest of the world, not confined to an automobile. But it still had to be a place she would feel safe in. Even though there’s a view of Central Park, you don’t feel exposed to anything.” said Christopher.
Madonna and Christopher, 1990
The apartment was originally three separate units. Madonna and former husband Sean Penn had bought the first apartment—the living room, dining room, a much smaller kitchen and two small bedrooms during their marriage in the mid 80's. A second apartment was purchased after their divorce in 1989, and a third—which constituted the back sitting room and bath—was acquired six months later when the place had been gutted. Ciccone made all the major design decisions, talking with Madonna once a week, while architect Stephen Wang carried them out. The style that emerged was a classic early Art Déco look. Ciccone kept as many original details of the 1915 building as possible, such as moldings and fireplaces, and paid attention to all-new minutiae, including the doorknobs and the color of screws. “I wanted to stay away from American Déco and late Déco,” he says, “because I felt this style was easier to live with and would age well.”
Setting the muted tone in the entrance is a circa 1930 Fresson print titled Nude by French photographer Laure Albin-Guillot