Architect and designer Kimberly Sheppard, founder of New York-based architecture and interior design practice Gabellini Sheppard, began working with her partner, Michael Gabellini, in 1994. Their firm was built on “the regenerative power of design to develop creative concepts, solve problems, and enhance experience.” They’ve since worked across residential, hospitality, retail, public and exhibition platforms.
Ms. Sheppard, 56, has directed the design of luxury condominium and hotel interiors that include The Edition in Istanbul and the Knickerbocker Hotel, set within a historic National Landmark building in New York. She has designed cultural and civic spaces, such as Top of the Rock and the redeveloped Rainbow Room at Manhattan’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza, as well as boutiques and showrooms for Jil Sander, Salvatore Ferragamo and David Yurman, and large-scale retail environments for The Village at Westfield London, the Mall of America in Minneapolis (a renovation and expansion), and the Giorgio Armani Center in Milan.
The firm has recently worked on Tadao Ando’s 152 Elizabeth Street and with Bjarke Ingels on The XI, both in Manhattan.
We caught up with Ms. Sheppard to discuss her sixth-floor walk-up apartment, being a city person who loves the country, and why she wishes there were “surprises” in the real estate business.
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Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Kimberly Sheppard: I have my dream property; I just haven’t built on it yet. It’s an enchanted forest. It used to be a gravel quarry. It’s between two streams—headwaters of the Delaware River. What made it so special is that they quarried the gravel with mules, and they created a mogul field essentially. It was later grown over by ironwood trees, and it’s an enchanted 20 acres. My dream is to build a wood, glass and stone house, in modern style, on the spot.
That will likely happen in the next five years.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
KS: My first thought of luxury is time, space and storage. To have the feeling of space is very difficult in New York City, even in a large home. Space and view is very special here, too.
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MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?
KS: Things are moving from condo to luxury rentals in both Miami and New York. Nashville, which I haven’t worked in, is definitely a city on the rise.
I’m a New Yorker, and I’ve always wanted to live here. New York continues to recreate itself. Brooklyn and the surrounding areas now compete with Manhattan for real estate.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
KS: In a weird way, everyone follows everyone else. Some surprises would be nice. Buildings tend to be broker-driven. There’s a bit of a vanilla taste.
What surprises me is when I see something very unique and something that takes a position. That’s why we like to do private residences, we get to work individually. One of the most fun is to work for clients who are actually going to live there.
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MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
KS: Luxury homes tend to mean so many things. Obviously Manhattan has some of the best luxury homes in the world, because they offer amazing, unique views. Luxury penthouses in New York have to be among the top-five in the world.
But I’m a country girl at heart, so I like to live among trees. I’ve lived in Europe, too. The truth is you can find beautiful homes everywhere.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
KS: My roof terrace gardens. I live in a sixth-floor walk-up, and I can’t leave because I won’t be able to find anything like that. I overlook a lot of roofs. It’s a cool, urban feel. If I could graduate, I’d find a taller view. But it would be hard to give up my gardens. I have lots of trees and annuals in the spring, and I grow a lot of tall grasses. It’s all irrigated.
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MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
KS: It’s in an old building, but it’s pretty modern inside. I completely gutted it.
MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?
KS: It has privacy and light. Even my bathrooms have windows.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
KS: My roof space doubles my space.
I love [the streaming exercise bikes] Pelotons, too. Those are pretty good.
In new developments, I think it’s usually all about the fitness amenities. People talk a lot about wanting pools.
A lot of developers are offering hotel amenities like room service. If you work and travel a lot, it’s nice to have a home that feels catered to.
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MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?
KS: If you can afford to buy in Manhattan, don’t sell. It’s a pretty stable place. There’s a bit of a glut in luxury, but it’s always a good investment.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
KS: I live in a resale now, so next I’d like to be in a new development. I’d take the penthouse of any one of the buildings I’ve worked on.
MG: What area currently has the best resale value?
KS: [In Manhattan,] Gramercy (where I’ve lived for 20 years) and NoMad are pretty good. Murray Hill, too. There are still good deals in Murray Hill, and a lot of new things coming in those areas too. It’s a neighborhood with easy transportation and it’s easy to live in. Some areas, like those on the far West Side, they’ll become more convenient, but they aren’t now, and in Murray Hill and Gramercy and Nomad you have all the amenities you need to live.
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