Amanda Weil Taught Herself to Renovate Her Own Apartment

Ora Sawyers

The Living Room: The fire escape faces north. “It was my COVID garden,” Amanda Weil says. “I spent so much time on that hammock.” The sofa is Vladimir Kagan, and the pair of swivel chairs are from CB2.
Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson

The first thing photographer Amanda Weil asks “pretty much anyone” who walks into her Village apartment is to stand, in profile, before a translucent-glass door so she can take a picture. Turned into silhouettes, they are displayed on a wall in a grid. “My life is so much about creating community,” she says. “And whether it’s the UPS guy or whatever, these are your people!”

Weil’s photographs mingle on the walls with art made by her friends. Some of her photos, like the seascape shower door, have been transformed into architectural features by Weil Studio, founded in 1993, through which she collaborates with architects and designers to produce installations based on her work. Transparency and translucency have long fascinated her, and an early inspiration was stained glass: “Light is the embodiment of the spirit,” she says, “and that just really spoke to me.”

She found the apartment by “kismet,” visiting it on a playdate with her daughter, Samantha. Its parent owners were thinking about selling, and she needed more space. That was 18 years ago. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that she decided to renovate it. Her first move was to hire an architect whose name she says she has forgotten, probably because “if he didn’t like an idea I had, he wouldn’t draw it, so I fired him.”

Liberated, Weil felt she could do it herself, albeit with some help from her contractor (from Worldkor Construction Corporation) and guidance from one of her best friends, the architect and production designer Kevin Thompson. It was a learn-as-she-went process. “The funny part is that there wasn’t an overarching idea,” beyond letting in more light. “It was like problem solving, one thing after the other,” she says. “I did so much of this with blue tape,” she adds gleefully, mapping out where the walls would go on the floor. She had a particular idea for her bedroom, though. “I am very into boats, so I had this vision in my head of a ship captain’s bed and then literally went on Amazon and bought a porthole and told the contractor where to put it.”

When it came to the kitchen, she knew the five-foot wall blocking the window had to go “because it’s all about the view.” She visited other people’s kitchens to see what she liked. “I hid the appliances as much as I could,” she says. “It was worth it for me showing up here every day for three months because I thought deeply about how I live, all those teeny details, like how you live differently from everybody else. I rarely yearned to come home, and now I do.”

The Living Room: “All the art is meaningful to me, made by somebody I know,” Weil says, including Adam Fuss’s photogram of her daughter, Samantha (center right). At top left: A Is for Amanda, by Jack Pierson, and Beloved George, by Weil. The dining table is Saarinen and the chairs are by Bertoia.
Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson

The Dining Area: The silhouetted portraits of Weil’s friends and other visitors fill the wall and the door, which is laminated with dichroic glass and has a photographic-film interlayer.
Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson

The Main Bedroom: “I put in this LED lighting in the cove,” Weil says, which her software-engineer friends programmed for her. “At night, it’s amazing.” The blue art on the wall (“It’s a fresco”) is by James Hyde.
Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson

The shower door of laminated glass with photographic film in Samantha’s bathroom is by Weil Studio. “For my daughter’s shower, I took photos of the water surface with the seaweed floating underneath. I wanted the image to integrate with the busy tile pattern that my daughter had chosen, so I took the seaweed abstracted it through pixelization.”
Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson

Weil’s bathroom has a shower enclosure by Weil Studio composed of Ceramic Frit printed glass. “The image surrounds me in the shower and I am transported to that moment of expansiveness I feel when I stand overlooking an expanse of water,” she says.
Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson

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