Peek Inside James and Nicky Hilton Rothschild's Charming NoHo Penthouse
Elmo’s unmistakable squawk floats out of the nursery and into the hallway of the downtown penthouse that year-and-a-half-old Lily Grace shares with her parents, James and Nicky Hilton Rothschild, new sister Teddy Marilyn (born this past December), and two cats, Mac and Cheese. With the drunken-sailor stagger of one who has just recently learned to walk, the toddler topples into her mother’s lap, revealing pink-heart D. Porthault bloomers that match the bedding on her cream crib.
A wallpaper by Peter Fasano adds a blue-sky note to the cheery nursery. Carpet by Stark.
“I had so much fun doing this room; you just get to relive your childhood again with all the things you loved: kitties and bunnies and princesses,” says Nicky, cozily roosted on the nursery’s hand-darned felt ball rug (found on Etsy). The room’s sky-blue Peter Fasano wallpaper adds to the cheerful mix of Pottery Barn Kids essentials and a menagerie of animals. “James did the vast majority,” she says of the apartment’s decorating, “but I added my little feminine touches, my little accessories.”
“I don’t know where I got it from,” muses James, scooping Lily Grace up into his arms, when asked where he picked up the design bug. “I just quite enjoy doing it.”
Nicky, of course, is the younger sister of Paris and a fashion designer whose latest endeavor, a Mommy & Me collection for Tolani, debuts this spring (though her 1.1 million Instagram followers have already seen glimpses). And James, a financier, is a scion of the aristocratic, multibranched European banking dynasty. When the couple met, at a wedding outside Rome in 2011, James was living in London and Nicky in Los Angeles. So when they got married, in 2015, the compromise was to set up house in the middle. And when James sold his family’s Suffolk estate, that same year, many of the home’s treasures migrated with him across the Atlantic.
The heirlooms range from the easily portable—a pair of chairs used by Lord and Lady Rothschild at the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII—to the more cumbersome: the antique marble mantelpiece that now anchors the couple’s NoHo drawing room.
“I mean, look, I’m not that into the decorating. I do enjoy it, but I would never do it as a job,” he adds a bit bashfully as he leads the way down the hallway past an allée of framed illustrations of Rothschild ancestors. “They’re a good-looking bunch—strong genes!” he jokes.
The family settles into a Holland & Sherry navy wool-covered Howard sofa that, along with the armchairs and ottoman, also came from the England estate. “We worked with an incredible upholsterer who just brought these pieces back to life,” says Nicky, “but they still have that cozy, old feeling. They don’t make things like this anymore.”
Fortunately, Mac and Cheese keep their kneading to the room’s steel-blue Stark carpet. Lily Grace is free to roam at will, messy hands and all. “I grew up in a house full of antiques and fancy fabrics and certain rooms you weren’t allowed to go in,” Nicky explains. “And as a child I always told myself that I will never have that when I’m grown up; I would have a house where no room is off-limits.”
As a child I always told myself that I will never have that when I’m grown up; I would have a house where no room is off-limits.
The loftlike drawing room is the heart of the home, with the dining area and open kitchen at one end. On one wall, built-in limed-oak bookshelves flank the fireplace, where an oval gesso-and-kaolin painting by Elliott Puckette is the focal point. (A collage of whimsical linocuts by Puckette’s husband—and James’s uncle—Hugo Guinness hangs farther down the wall facing the black walnut dining table.) On the opposite wall, a Modigliani watercolor that was a gift to James from his father hangs atop the custom de Gournay cherry-blossom wall covering.
Of course, the next generation is making its own mark as well: Lily Grace’s first-haircut certificate from Doodle Doo’s is pinned to the refrigerator next to a Happy Father’s Day card, and around the corner a trio of silhouettes by Puckette depicts the family, waiting for a fourth to be added soon.