MOJEH exclusively explores the Park Avenue home of celebrated jewellery designer, Nina Runsdorf
Rare gems are something that Nina Runsdorf has spent her career discovering. But as well as working among some of the world’s most precious stones in her capacity as a jewellery designer, Nina has the fortune of living in a rare gem of her own. Passed down through the generations by her late husband’s parents, the 57-year-old New York native’s Park Avenue home is a glittering example of some of the city’s most exquisite real estate.
“I’ve lived here for 25 years,” smiles Nina. “This apartment was the home that my late husband grew up in, and where I raised our two daughters. It’s a place full of very special memories.” Just a stone’s throw from Central Park on one of the most coveted streets in the city, the Big Apple is quite literally the core of Nina’s world.
“I was born in New York City, but at the age of eight, my parents decided to move us to upstate New York, where we lived on a farm,” she explains. “The neighbourhood we live in now is really quiet and incredibly elegant. The street of Park Avenue is very wide, so you feel like you have a lot of space in a city where it often feels that you don’t.”
Leading an active lifestyle, which includes practicing yoga and pilates, and taking long walks as often as she can, Nina loves nothing more than visiting the sprawling park that’s right on her doorstep. “We’re so lucky to live just one block away from Central Park, which I absolutely love, because it allows me to be around nature, even though we’re right in the heart of the city, which is something I’m used to having grown up in the countryside.”
While the property is beautifully spacious and now flooded with natural light, Nina admits they did have to do a little bit of work when she and her late husband first started living in the property together. “When we first moved in, the apartment felt rather dark, and I wanted it to feel light and welcoming,” she reveals. “There were lots of arches, so I took all of those out, and moved all of the door planes eight inches higher to create a space that felt more inviting. I also put a lot of glass doors into the apartment, which allowed for even more light to pass through.”
Designing the interiors of the apartment herself so it reflected who she is as a person and a designer, Nina describes the feel of her home as eclectic, yet elegant and thoughtful. “When I was a kid, we were surrounded by artists, musicians, architects and all types of creative people, and because of that, my home has a lot of different feelings. It’s bohemian, it’s contemporary; there are modern pieces and there are antiques – it really is a mixture of a lot of different aesthetics.”
An avid collector of vintage clothing, watches, handbags and jewellery, Nina also has a collection of antique furniture and unique art, carefully curated over the years during her travels around the world. “I only buy things that I fall in love with, but if I see one of those special pieces, I’ll snap it up right there and then,” she laughs. “I’m always looking to add to my collection, and I really love the history that vintage pieces carry.”
With art one of her greatest loves, the designer’s regular travels allow her to indulge her passion wherever she goes. “I travel all over the world, and love experiencing new cultures and their art and design aesthetics. Wherever I am in the world, I buy what I love and what I feel would make a great addition to my art collection. I make a real effort to try and bring something home from every country I go to. That’s really the way I find the art for my home.”
Having recently enjoyed a trip to the UAE, Nina made sure she returned to New York with a lasting memory of her visit. “I picked up an amazing sculpture by Ahmed Askalany when I was staying in Dubai,” reveals Nina of her latest purchase. “He works with woven materials. I love the aesthetic form of his pieces, and how they are produced using such simple techniques, yet contribute to the complexity of contemporary art and its practice.”
Adding to a spectacular array of artworks and furniture collected over the years, when it comes to choosing favourite pieces, the jewellery designer admits she struggles to decide between them. “I have so many favourite pieces of furniture, it’s really difficult to select just one of two of them,” smiles Nina.
“But my Vladimir Kagan serpentine couch is something I really love. He was also a friend of the family, which makes it a sentimental piece. My Wendell Castle sculptural wood tables are also favourites. Wendell was a fantastic artist and a great man that I knew. He designed the most beautiful sculptural tables. But I also love Ado Chale! Because of the incredible tables he makes with inlaid stones, and because I am such a stone-crazy person, it’s a given that I love his pieces.”
As far as artworks go, Nina’s most cherished all have a strong, emotional relevance to her. “The bronze sculpture by Robert Kipness given to me by my parents on my 21st birthday is definitely one of my most treasured pieces,” she explains. “Robert rarely made bronze sculptures, so it really is extra-special in that regard.”
As an artist with unbridled creativity running through her veins, Nina’s chosen career plays a big part in inspiring the look and feel of her home. “As a jeweler, I love working with my hands, and I love beautiful things. I get a lot of inspiration for my designs from travelling, and find different kinds of stones to work with, being most drawn to the beauty found in natural, unrefined stones and precious gemstones,” says Nina.
“I get inspiration and shop for my house in the same way. All the things I’ve collected from around the world over the years give the space such a unique character.”
“I’m always looking for young artists that are up-and-coming, and I’m getting ready to go to a few art fairs in the next few months, so I’ll see who is inspiring me then. I always try to get to know the artist of a piece I buy, and if I don’t already know them, I try to find a way to meet them. It inspires me that everyone has a different slant on life, and I want to understand the way in which they see the world.”
Designing and re-designing her home to reflect what she likes as well as her personal aesthetic over the years, Nina is currently on the lookout for something for her bedroom. “I’ve been wanting a vintage black and white photograph to go above my bed for so long,” she explains. “I just redesigned the room into a super-dreamy and calming space, so I want this photograph to be really perfect. But you can’t rush these things. When I find the right image, I’ll just know.” See the full article in our April issue, available to read online here.
- Words by Lucy Wildman
- Photography by SamNandez