Our 1,600sqft: The owners of NYC’s oldest dog boutique mix classic styles on Central Park West

Posted On Wed, February 21, 2018 By

Posted On Wed, February 21, 2018 By In Features, Interiors, My SQFT House Tours, Upper West Side 

6sqft’s series “My sqft” checks out the homes of New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to the Upper West Side apartment of Canine Styles owners Mark Drendel and Chad Conway. Want to see your home featured here? Get in touch!

When Mark Drendel and Chad Conway met on Fire Island 21 years ago, they didn’t know that they’d one day claim ownership of “the world’s only Dog Lifestyle brand.” Despite the wild success of Canine Styles, also the oldest dog emporium in New York City, this couple remains down-to-earth and grounded in their family, which includes their high school-aged son, 13-year-old border terrier Katie, and year-old miniature schnauzer Izzy.

But of course, their home, located in the Art Deco Central Park West building The Century, is just as fashionable as their business. They describe Canine Styles as having “a flair for traditional, classic but up-to-date design,” which holds true for their recently renovated apartment, too. Mark and Chad’s basic design concept was wanting guests to not be completely sure what city or era they’re in. By mixing the space’s Art Deco bones with their modern art collection, contemporary furnishings, and antiques spanning from the 18th century to the 1960s, they’ve created a uniquely stylish space. 6sqft recently took a tour and chatted with this lovely couple about the history and future of Canine Styles, what a normal day at home looks like, and their thoughts on raising a family (human or four-legged!) in NYC.

In the foyer, Mark and Chad made a nod to the building’s Art Deco history with the white oak, ebony, and walnut floor. It’s complemented by a 19th-century mirror that they had restored and the glass head by Hank Murta Adams.

How did you two meet?

Chad: We met on the dance floor on Fire Island, 21 years ago on Memorial Day weekend.

You mentioned that your first place together was in Chelsea. What brought you uptown?

Chad: We never thought we’d live above 23rd Street. We thought of ourselves as downtown people. But when our son got into school uptown, we did one year of him commuting from Chelsea to the Upper West Side and then decided if we were going to move uptown, we’d move closer to school. So, Nick, who is now 15, went from kindergarten to the fifth grade at the Ethical Culture School, which is the lower campus of Fieldston, which is exactly next door. So, for six years, all he had to do was cross the street to go to school.

Then he had to get on the bus and go to Riverdale, but it was a really wonderful experience to live on Central Park West and go to school in the building next door. Mark is from Memphis, Tennessee, and I’m from Ottawa, Canada. This is not the way we grew up, so we’d say, “Buddy, you know this is
not normal, right?”

What were the neighborhood spots that he used to love to as a young child?

Mark: When we lived down in Chelsea, all the kids ran around Chelsea Market, and that was where we met so many people. Once we moved uptown, the Museum of Natural History was a big place for him.

What about your favorite places in the area?

Chad: We love Café Luxemburg–that’s our go-to restaurant. Love Fiorello’s.

Mark: We went to Fiorello’s so many times, we actually threw Nicholas’s birthday party there two or three years in a row. They do little glass plaques with the names of people who have
eaten there, and it says, “This table is reserved for whoever,” and Nicholas got a plaque that happens to be right underneath Katie Couric’s.

We also love Blue Ribbon. We have been a couple of times to Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Time Warner building, which is such a beautiful room. I’ve lived all over New York City, and I’ve never loved living in a location as much as I love living here. Just because of Columbus Circle and whether you want to go uptown or across, it’s all so easy. And you have Lincoln Center right here, which is amazing.

Jeff Koons’ “Split Rocker” sits on the coffee table. 

You also have a country house in Connecticut. Why was this important to you?

Chad: We couldn’t conceive of a little boy not having at least a screen door and some grass. We drove up to Connecticut and bought the only house we could afford. It has really become a huge part of our life. We have loved that house and fluffed it to the nth possible degree. We spend a lot of time there–every weekend and more in the summertime.

It’s interesting that you use the word “fluff” when your Manhattan apartment is so streamlined.

Chad: When we bought [the country] house, we were building a new apartment downtown, and we took every single thing we owned, which is very traditional, lots of brown furniture, antiques, Oriental rugs, and sent it all to this little farmhouse in Connecticut and did a completely new 1930s modern thing down in Chelsea.

The painting on the left is by one of the couple’s favorite artists Dana Louise Kirkpatrick. In front of it is a marble Japanese sculpture titled “Castle in the Eye,” which weighs several tons. 

Speaking of the 1930s–when designing this apartment, were you influenced by the building’s Art Deco history?

Mark: Definitely. We both are sensitive to design, and the building and the apartment sort of dictated the direction we would go.

Chad: But we didn’t want a pure Art Deco apartment. We tried to go a little bit more 1930s than strict 1920s.

Mark: I would say I was very inspired by a designer by the name of Jean-Louis Deniot. He had a new book out just before we were starting the renovation. It’s really sort of a 1930s French style.

Chad: I think our basic taste level is traditional. But Jean-Louis knows how to mix the modern art and the antiques. He knows how to mix things from the 30s with things from the 60s with things that are 18th and 19th century and somehow have it still read young. We also had a concept for the apartment that you wouldn’t be completely sure what city you were in or what the era was. It could be the 1930s in Paris or the 1950s in New York or some point in the future in Berlin.

The fireplace is marble and bronze; the bronze scroll and andirons are from 1930s France.

You said there’s an interesting story behind the fireplace?

Chad: This building was built in 1929. It was just a weird historical moment. There was never a working fireplace anywhere in the building, but at the time they couldn’t conceive of a drawing room or a living room that didn’t have a fireplace as a focal point. So, every single apartment in the building had a faux fireplace. And there were different styles.

When we first moved in, we thought we were going to do the drawings, move out, and renovate, but we ended up living here for 10 years before we renovated. We had one of those original faux fireplaces and it was a white, marble, gothic fireplace. It was really, really well done faux. If you didn’t touch it, you’d almost believe it was marble. I grew rather fond of it, but Mark always hated the fireplace.

The art piece above the kitchen table is a photograph by Kim Keever of paint being dropped in water.

Do you each have a favorite part of the apartment?

Mark: [The kitchen banquette]. I spend all my time here. From the time I get up in the morning, I sit here, have breakfast, watch television. It’s like my own little den.

Another piece by Dana Louise Kirkpatrick in the master bedroom.

Chad: I think I like the Hans Wegner chair in the master bedroom more than anything. I’m a reader and it’s a perfect chair for reading.

Do you do a lot of entertaining?

Mark: We do. We do small dinner parties two or three times a month, for six to eight.

Let’s chat about Canine Styles. How did you get involved with the business?

Mark: I had the store for almost 10 years when I met Chad; I bought Canine-Styles 30 years ago this year. We’re getting ready to go into our 60th year of business. It was started in 1959.

I had always worked in retail and loved the whole selling aspect. And dogs have always been a big part of my life. I actually got a job at Canine Styles working in their retail section for a very small amount of money, at their original store between 63rd and 64th Streets on Lexington Avenue. I worked there for about four months and fell in love with that store. The woman who had owned it was the one who started it. She wanted to sell it and I was able to figure out how to buy it.

How did you transform it from one storefront to two Upper East Side locations and an Upper West Side location, in addition to manufacturing two of your own collections each year?

Mark: It’s been an evolution. When I first bought the store, it was just about survival. I had never owned my own business before, so I was just hoping it would pay the bills. Not long after Chad and I met, we started creating our own line of product. That was about 16 years ago, and it really changed the whole focus of the business. We went a little bit more into the wholesale side of the pet world. We used to do six or seven trade shows every year, and at one of those, we had the opportunity to buy
our uptown location, a store that used to be called Karen’s For People and Pets, which had also been up there for almost 30 years.

Chad: At that point, we were manufacturing about 70 percent of what we sold. So, we had the goods to sell the other locations and they were existing businesses which was huge because they already had a grooming clientele.

Both bedrooms feature 1930s rock crystal chandeliers. 

What was it like when you bought the original store?

Chad: It was a really old-school, old-world store on the Upper East Side that people loved for that reason.

Mark: It was amazing. Everything was shared on a Rolodex. You can’t imagine the names of the [clients]. Everyone from Andy Warhol to Princess Grace shopped there.

Chad: And because it’s the Upper East Side, it was the only store like it of its kind, and there were all those very fancy hotels up there, so it wasn’t just New Yorkers; it was people from all over the world.

Do you think the Upper East Side has changed a lot in the past 30 years?

Mark: I don’t think it’s changed that much. It’s gotten a little younger, but what you see is people who have grown up on the Upper East Side and moved downtown, then they have children and then they all move back up to the Upper East Side because that’s where most of the schools are. Having had the store for 30 years, I see the little kids who used to come into the store with their parents and grandparents now come in with their children and their dogs. It’s a second and third generation business, even in my time there.

Last year, you took over the space next to the original store and doubled its size. This was also a chance to be involved with the design. What aesthetic were you going for?

Chad: Canine-Styles tries to be on trend, but we don’t chase trends. The color palate, the design, the details are all skewed pretty traditional.

Mark: And we wanted the product to really be the color in the store, to show up and speak for itself.

Do you have one signature item that’s your best-seller?

Mark: When we first started, we came out with our own plaid. That’s really been our signature item. We do collars, leashes and harnesses, coats, and bedding in that particular plaid. But we also do our own line of beds and make all our own fabrics. We make a couple of thousand yards at a time and once that pattern is gone, it’s gone. We don’t typically repeat [any pattern] other than our plaids. We try to keep it fresh and new.

Chad: There’s a small factory-workroom here in Long Island City, Queens, where very limited runs of very expensive products are made, primarily dog coats in remnant fabrics. It can be a real Chanel or Burberry fabric that we bought at closeout and then only have enough to make six beds and 12 coats. A big part of that business are the specialty one-off couture dog carriers–everything from a cashmere carrier to an alligator bag to an ostrich bag.

The large art piece in the living room is by Peter Wegner.

What about your dogs. Where is their favorite place?

Mark: They love to go to Connecticut and have run of the yard. Although Izzy is definitely a lap dog, as you can see. She’ll go anywhere we go. As long as she’s with us.

Any final thoughts?

Mark: New York is such an interesting place. We’ve had so many friends that have come and gone. It’s one of those places that either it opens up for you, allows you to live here and have a decent life or it doesn’t, which is unfortunate for some. But we were lucky and found our niche.

+++

During their renovation, Mark and Chad worked with a wonderful team who they would like to note: Architect Christian Ricci; designer Jessica Rose; and Godwin Residential Construction.

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All photos taken by Brett Wood exclusively for 6sqft. Photos are not to be reproduced without written permission from 6sqft.

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Neighborhoods : Upper West Side

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