Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Amy Napoleone's Sutton Place postwar co-op presented a scenario all too familiar to New Yorkers: an L-shape public space, two bedrooms, two baths. And absolutely no architectural assets.
That's where her design-business savvy came into play. Because Kevin Walz of Walzworkinc just happens to be her partner in KorQinc, his line of cork furniture and products, she was able to enlist him to transform the apartment without "pushing things around," says Walz. Her own importing company, EX:Inc, could supply the stone and custom rugs.
Characteristically, Walz treated the interior as a materials study, using "many of the materials that Amy and I usually work with," he continues. That meant enriching every surface with a tactile substance and giving the 1,500-square-foot white box an infusion of city cool—as in the Eternal City, where Walz has lived for the past 10 years.
For starters, the apartment became a virtual quarry of Italian limestone, cladding floors everywhere and the master bathroom in its entirety. Meanwhile, as Walz confides, "We smuggled painters in from Italy." In Napoleone's bedroom alone, these visiting artisans painted frescoes in addition to an intricately textured, stylized brocade pattern. Ceilings received a gesso finish.
The designer did succumb to one spatial ploy. To break up the L-shape public room and set its shorter leg apart as a dining area, he hung a row of brass tubes from the ceiling, 9 inches apart. The tubes' ends, which then hovered 1/2 inch above the floor, he secured with marine rope. Napoleone, who's known for her way with words, christened the result her "chimes."
As for furnishings, she describes her tastes as "ethnically minimalist," and Walz acknowledged her equal appreciation for modern forms and family heirlooms. Her decades-old collection of sterling silver found a new home atop the living area's Parisian dentist's cabinet from the 19th century. Most of the furniture, however, originated in Italy. "You can get unbelievable pieces there for less money," he says, crediting dealers who "find things that last."
He filled the public room with a representative assortment of those things. Bought through a dealer in Rome, the living area's two René Heutte cherrywood chairs from 1954 came with their original animal-print upholstery intact. An Indonesian 19th-century teak bench Walz found at Rome's Porta Portese flea market; the dining area's rosewood credenza, circa 1960, he purchased in Milan.
The living area's Roman-made custom sofa Walz upholstered in an off-white linen-velvet blend, and he sourced soft furnishings in Italy, too. Handwoven in Sardinia, the living area's custom rugs "explore the idea of texture rather than pattern," the designer explains. India also made contributions throughout the apartment: Drapery silks, actually saris, and a bedspread were imported by Walz's neighbor Iris Bachar.
Naturally, cork entered the multi-textured picture as well. In the guest room, Walz paneled all four walls in a running-bond pattern of the sound-absorptive material. In the public room, he chose his own signature cork side chairs for both sitting and dining. He paired them with his prototype cocktail table and dining table in walnut and carbon laminate, a composite Walz developed and patented.
For all his visible work, Walz cites intangibles—"the wonderful sense of fluidity"—as the source of the project's success, making the intimate spaces intimate and the public spaces generous. Napoleone's summary is typically on the mark: "He really got me."