Investing In Modernism
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
How does a 35-year-old investment banker live today? Like a movie star, if this glamorous Grand Street penthouse is any indication. In fact, this particular investment banker was drinking beer and listening to rap music when the namesake principal of Martin Raffone Interior Design arrived for an initial interview.
The penthouse's existing plasterboard walls and wood floor were clearly the result of a developer's conversion, but the layout was in place. A former garment sweatshop, the apartment is ringed by windows, some of which look down on the stunning neoclassical dome of New York's former police building. From the roof terrace, you can see into Lenny Kravitz's swinging pad across the way.
The banker asked for a restrained modernism "for the post–Calvin Klein store era"—and Raffone was relieved. "I get a little nervous when clients ask for a gallerylike space, which can be cold," he says.
No money was budgeted to change the adequate kitchen, and Raffone also left the old-fashioned trim on the giant double-hung windows. But he insisted on bleaching the ruddy oak floor twice to get out all the orange. Then he trashed the remainder of the Park Avenue–style moldings and removed any tall paneled doors visible from the public space, substituting flat-panel ones in flush frames.
The central staircase to the roof terrace needed a makeover as well. Though the steel structure remains, Raffone added blackened-steel treads paved with nude-colored leather tiles and replaced the "Spanish" iron railings with simple stainless-steel ones, which stand out dramatically against the new paneling on the wall behind. Each panel is made from spruce timbers taken from old New England factories, then laminated into blocks, split using the fork of a forklift, brushed, bleached, and finally sealed.
Identical paneling runs above the fireplace, its "horrible" neoclassical pine mantelpiece gone, Raffone says, in favor of a surround of tiny, white Chiclet-shape glass mosaic tiles. An adjacent wall is almost entirely taken up by a surreal, purplish canvas by bad-girl painter Lisa Yuskavage. However, the "wall" is actually a rolling panel; it slides aside to reveal the TV.
Finding room for the banker's world-class collection of contemporary art was hardly a problem in the floor-through apartment. Filling it was more of an adventure. Anticipating completion of the project, the owner enlarged his collection of Danish modern furniture, leather-wrapped lamps and tables by Jacques Adnet, and spidery ceiling fixtures by Serge Mouille.
The master bedroom's PP225 chair is by Hans Wegner. In the master bath, a hollow beneath the floor gave Raffone free rein to reroute drain lines and clean up the space. He surfaced the walls in glass mosaic tile, the floor in slabs of Calacatta gold marble. A new frosted interior window lets in light from the adjacent dining area, but the full-height sliding door to the bedroom is clear glass. The owner calls it his "corner of a Case Study house."
He and his partner, a lawyer, adapted Raffone's furniture plan to finish the penthouse—also enlisting the help of decorator Charles Lewis. The trio ordered window treatments, silk rugs, and, for the fireside, an L-shape Vladimir Kagan sofa that adds, as the owner says, "a little bit of Hollywood."
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