Designer William McIntosh Brings a Global Aesthetic to a Chelsea Home

For his client Ajay Bhalla, William McIntosh transformed an undistinguished Chelsea box into an airy, sophisticated home punctuated with quiet references to Indian culture.

By Judith Nasatir

Every project has a back story, which often follows a familiar arc–first a referral, next a gut renovation. That's at least part of the story here. Ajay Bhalla, the owner of this Chelsea two-bedroom designed by William McIntosh, puts it simply: "I found Bill through my business partner, whose apartment he had done at 40 Mercer." Bhalla had thought through his aesthetic likes and dislikes by the time he met with McIntosh. He knew he didn't want "a classic, dark bachelor pad—no leather couches!" With its large terraces and windows, the apartment reminded him of a boat, so he looked at yacht magazines for inspiration. As a fan of Japanese design, he wanted a bit of minimalism, and lots of wood—a "James Bond goes to Bali" feeling. Because he's Indian by heritage, he wanted his rooms to contain references to that country's culture.

All that? Great as far as descriptors go. Then came the hard work of making the dream apartment into detailed reality. As McIntosh put it: "We tore it down to the concrete, and built it back up again." Happily, Bhalla was more than game. McIntosh's reimagined floor plan converted the three-bedroom into a two-bedroom with a den. For the entry, he created a welcoming space lined with wood slats. He grounded the airy L-shaped living room with vintage Samarkands from Doris Leslie Blau, furnished it with custom upholstered pieces, and elevated it with a fireplace set into wall of stacked white marble chunks. The wood-lined kitchen became a sleek workspace that opens to the dining area via a slatted folding wall. For the bedroom, McIntosh created a manly cocoon with British khaki-style influences. The master bath? A glassed-in master shower with a view, floored with teak slats—oh so James Bond meets Bali.