The owner: Dan Santow, a public relations exec, author, and scribe of a grammar and writing blog called Word Wise (

In his kitchen, architect Alan Halvorsen of EA Architecture and Design deftly combined high (marble countertops, custom shelving) with low (Lowe’s cabinets).  PHOTO GALLERY:::

The digs: A 1920s two-bedroom East Lake View condo with a large foyer and separate living and dining rooms. Santow says he spends 99 percent of his time—typically with his English springer spaniel, Bailey, plopped nearby—in the second bedroom, a fire-engine-red-walled den.

The aesthetic: Upper West Side co-op (think Hannah and Her Sisters) with a touch of Moulin Rouge, the movie. Filled with books, 1940s oil portraits, quirky collections (with conspicuous emphasis on springer spaniel ephemera), lush window treatments, and vintage furniture, Santow’s home feels warm, intellectual, and a bit eccentric.

Simply put: "It’s not normal," says Santow. Indeed, not everyone likes their moldings painted a marbley mixture of gold with another color, like cream, red, or green (depending on the room), their hallway-closet doors decorated with bas-reliefs of Greek goddesses, the hardwood floor in their dining room stained blood-red. Nor were these necessarily elements on Santow’s own wish list when he was hunting for a condo ten years ago. Yet after looking at nine cookie-cutter places one day with his real-estate agent, something about this last condo—which they nearly skipped for lack of street parking that afternoon—just "felt like home."

Except for: The hot-pink walls in the foyer. "Those I couldn’t live with," says Santow, who had them painted mustard yellow. He also had shelves built along one wall in the dining room, painting them the same army green as the other walls in the room. With velvet Roman shades of a slightly darker color on the windows, the book-filled shelves create an intimate setting for dinner parties around the big round mahogany table.

The daunting task at hand: Given how much paint had been visited upon the rest of the apartment, Santow was surprised that the living room had been left white by the previous owner. He also had no furniture with which to fill it. "I didn’t go into that room for four years, I was so intimidated by what needed to be done," he says. He finally took action with a gesture befitting the boldness of the rest of his home: painting the room a rich chocolate brown. From there, he hit auction houses and antique shops (Daniels and the Lincoln Antique Mall among them) and bought vintage furniture that could be re-covered in colors and patterns that suited him. The matching green-silk-with-fringes loveseats that now anchor the room so charmingly were tragically separated at auction by Santow, who had opted to bid on just one; the two were reunited after a friend spotted the estranged sibling at a soirée and immediately phoned Santow, informing him that "he’d found my other couch, and its owner was eager to sell. I called her up and bought it the next day," says Santow. Completed four years ago, the room feels rather formal (and is still rarely used), but it has its Santownian eccentricities—like an innocent- enough-looking antique mahogany side table that opens up to reveal a toilet.

All grown up: On two separate occasions, friends, unprompted, have observed that "my home feels very adult," says Santow. "And I like that comment." Yet for all its adultness (you truly couldn’t imagine a sticky-fingered child charging through here), there remains something youthfully unaffected about Santow’s take on the grown-up home. It’s that not-normal thing.


Photography: Matthew Gilson