Since founding her firm in 1993, New York–based interior designer Sara Bengur has won awards for her work and garnered projects from Washington, D.C., to the French West Indies to her native Istanbul. Still, when she heard about the New York Design Center’s Access to Design—a matchmaking program between clients and designers—she decided to give it a try. The last thing she expected was for the first query to come from a celebrity. And to instantly bag the job.
But that’s exactly what happened when Michael C. Hall—aka the star behind the TV show Dexter—and his wife, the writer Morgan Macgregor, flipped through Bengur’s portfolio. “We wanted something simultaneously sophisticated and playful—and we wanted color!” says Hall, who also fronts an indie band, Princess Goes, that released a new album, Come of Age, on October 6. “Sara’s spaces have an ease and flow that immediately appealed.”
The couple had recently moved from the West Coast to New York City and found an apartment at the El Dorado, a legendary Art Deco cooperative on Central Park West. Both Hall and Macgregor are design aficionados who started out trying to decorate their home themselves. But while searching for fabrics and furniture at the design center, they realized they needed guidance. “They went to shop and got completely overwhelmed,” Bengur says. “I got an email from Michael saying, ‘When can we meet?’ I ran up to the El Dorado, and it was an instant connection. We laugh a lot together. They are both creative and really a joy.”
Before the move to New York, the couple had spent a stint in the United Kingdom, where Hall was shooting the Netflix murder-mystery series Safe. While overseas, they had fallen under the spell of English country house decor and wanted to bring a similar approach to their New York classic six apartment. “They loved the casual elegance of British country homes with the florals and patterns and feeling of design elements layered over time,” Bengur says. “And like me, they love color. So we experimented with different color combinations, spending hours on the living room floor with bags and bags of samples and color swatches.”
The palette—boldly saturated hues like pistachio, purple, and turquoise, many from the French brand Ressource Paints—is so powerful that one naturally assumes it was the starting point in the project. But it was quite the opposite. “The colors were actually the last thing we did,” Bengur says. “I always start with the soft furnishings—first rugs, then upholstery and furniture—and then move onto color.”
Bengur commissioned several statement rugs for her clients. The one in the library is based on an Art Deco pattern reimagined in lilac and blue. In the living room, a design inspired by an antique Oushak grounds the space in soft pinks and reds. She layered a bold Tulu rug on top, pulling the bold green wall color from one of its stripes. Moving onto the furnishings, Bengur reupholstered the clients’ favorite pieces in eye-catching textiles and sourced new pieces in Milan, Rome, and the U.K., including vintage standouts like an Italian highboy by Roberto Aloi and an Erik Mattson cabinet from Sweden.
The couple are avid art collectors, and their artworks were a key factor in the design of each space. A Chinese abstract ink-brush painting by Lan Zhenghui hangs over the fireplace, while two drawings by Ai Weiwei are displayed in the hallway.
Meanwhile, the kitchen and bathrooms were gut renovated, with help from Amy Lopez-Cepero of Ampersand Architecture, who also assisted in refining the entire space. A particular favorite of Hall’s is the guest bath. “The decision to wallpaper the ceiling was inspired,” he says of the room’s Dorothy Draper tropical print. “That room is an oasis within an oasis.”
The couple were involved in every decision, even when Hall was filming out of town. “Sara’s collaborative spirit inspired us,” Hall says. “The design left us with both a sense of ownership and an appreciation that we could never have approached such a result without her expertise, guidance, and taste.”
Executive Editor, ELLE Decor
Ingrid Abramovitch, the Executive Editor at ELLE Decor, writes about design, architecture, renovation, and lifestyle, and is the author of several books on design including Restoring a House in the City.