Her Prescription for Home: Color
Dr. Patricia Wexler’s Upper East Side Home
Dr. Patricia Wexler and her husband, Eugene, were at their house in the Hamptons on a July weekend a few years ago when the call came from the superintendent of their Upper East Side condominium: You’ve got to get home immediately.
The instant hot water system in the kitchen of the couple’s three-bedroom apartment had malfunctioned and “water was gushing out like a fire hydrant,” said Dr. Wexler, 63, the petite but high-profile dermatologist to the well known and the well heeled.
“When we got back from Long Island, our apartment was under eight inches of water. Any cabinetry we had, any carpets, the floor, the Sheetrock, the insulation, ruined. Bags and shoes — Celine and Chanel. Don’t even discuss it. The first thing I did was get the family pictures and the art out,” said Dr. Wexler, who began her photography collection 29 years ago, with the acquisition of a Cindy Sherman for $750. “The other stuff is just things.”
Seven months of construction followed seven months of mold remediation. “That was a nightmare,” said Dr. Wexler, who spent more than a year in a hotel with Eugene, who is also a doctor, and the couple’s two bichons frisés. “Once we were able to start work on the apartment, I didn’t want any dramatic changes in layout or anything, because it would have taken more time to get approval from the building,” she added. “I just freshened things up, because we’d already been there a few years.”
Now might be a good time to mention that the Wexlers do not know the first thing about dithering. They met as undergraduates in the cafeteria at New York University, promptly broke up with significant others and were engaged by their third date. They’ve been married for 42 years and work together at Wexler Dermatology.
They weren’t looking for real estate when they bought their house in the Hamptons. “But there was a ‘for sale’ sign and we drove in off the street and put a bid in,” Dr. Wexler said. “If we like something, that’s what we do.”
And how. In 1999, she decided that moving to Roslyn Harbor, N.Y., from a Manhattan townhouse for the sake of her two daughters, Jane, now 28, and Perri, now 32, had been a mistake — the commute was brutal and the suburbs were, well, suburban. She went for the very first place she saw, a three-bedroom unit in a handsome brick building that had just been converted from a hotel.
“It was my Eloise dream,” Dr. Wexler added, referring to another strong-minded resident of a New York hostelry in her neighborhood. “I just fell in love.”
The marble floors in the lobby and the newly polished feel to the building appealed to her. “My husband and I like to be the first to live somewhere. Every office we’ve been in was a new conversion,” she said. “We don’t like dirt. We’re germaphobic, which is a good thing for doctors.”
She went home to her family in Roslyn and announced: “I’m moving. You’re all invited,” she recalled. “I’m a very stable person. But I’m impulsive.”
So who could possibly be surprised to learn that Dr. Wexler decided to toss out the old playbook as she began decorating after the flood cleanup. “When I decided to make a change it wasn’t going to be subtle,” she said. “I just decided to go crazy.”
With a few exceptions, like the off-white Liaigre sofa, it was begone to beige and mushroom and greige. The George Smith couch was reupholstered in purple velvet (washable because of the dogs) and further enlivened by chartreuse throw pillows; the Liaigre side chairs were outfitted in an ikat pattern, streaks of fuchsia, lilac and green.
The living room and the adjoining dining room with its black bookcases and cabinetry and black Liaigre table are an artful mix of dark and light, of cool and hot. The palette neatly echoes Dr. Wexler’s assemblage of black and white photographs by, among others, Sally Mann, Bert Stern, Patrick Demarchelier, Sally Gall, Loretta Lux, Melvin Sokolsky and Steven Klein, and a small new cache of images in color.
These include a soulful photograph of a geisha dressed in red by Laurie Simmons from her “Love Doll” series, and a pair of vividly toned photos of screaming women by Miles Aldridge. “I wanted the art to reflect my mood at the time because of what had happened,” Dr. Wexler said. “Red and purple — anger colors.”
The interior designer Nina Seirafi customized the cloud-shape coffee table for her, calling the stainless-steel creation “Patricia.” Its shiny reflective surface may well be a nudge to visitors that they could use their hosts’ services.
After the flood, Dr. Wexler donated 15 boxes of clothing to various charities and consigned 700 pieces. Even so, “I still don’t have space in my closets,” she said, leading the way to a bedroom that has been converted to a dressing area with leopard-pattern carpeting. There, three rows of floor-to-ceiling wood cabinets hold meticulously arranged bags, dresses and shoes.
“I have the nice-dress closet. I have the gown closet. I have the shoe closet. I just love pretty Manolo Blahniks,” Dr. Wexler said. “I’m on a lot of boards and I go to a lot of charity events,” she added by way of a partial explanation for the extravagant array, then offered a bit more information. “I take care of designers and sometimes they’ll send me gifts.”
As much as anything else, the apartment celebrates the heritage of its owners. Patricia Wexler’s father owned a bookstore in Greenwich Village. He raised a bibliophile who has made several rooms in her home de facto libraries, all the volumes as neatly arranged as the contents of her closets. Many of her patients are authors; the stacks grow progressively higher.
Eugene Wexler’s father was once an owner of the watch company Tourneau. Accordingly, Patricia Wexler has started a collection of clocks with moving parts. “I think it’s nice for his family history,” she said, picking up a few of the acquisitions that sit on shelves in the dining room and carefully winding them. “Here’s a bat hitting a ball. Here’s a football. The ones I don’t collect, which are the earliest ones, are pornographic. I don’t think my husband would have wanted those. They have a lot of moving parts.”
With everything back in order, her apartment is once again a haven. “It’s nice to be home and to chill,” she said.
She works five days a week, 10 hours a day. “I’m doing liposuction, which is very physical work. And it’s emotional. I’m making people happy and if they’re not happy, it’s draining,” she said. “Sometimes patients will tell me I should work less and I’ll say, ‘Are you not coming in? Are you volunteering not to come in?’ And they don’t volunteer. Funny thing about that.”