Best In Show
Betty Wasserman wins big with a repeat client's TriBeCa town house
Marisa Bartolucci -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
"She's British, brilliant, and beautiful—a high-powered banker and a champion show jumper," Betty Wasserman gushes about her four-time client. But if fortune has certainly smiled upon this exceptional woman, that hasn't always been the case for her TriBeCa town house. Not only was it built on spec, but the architect also died before it was finished, and the developer ran out of money. Luck turned with the arrival of Wasserman's client, who bought the property at auction. She needed a place big enough for herself and her fiancé, her daughter and nanny, visiting family, and two dogs.
While the 7,500-square-foot house was grand—six stories, plus a basement, three terraces, and an elevator—some of the rooms were ill conceived. So Wasserman called in architect Glenn Leitch, a frequent collaborator. "I clean up the architecture to give Betty a clean canvas," he explains. At the house in TriBeCa, he added storage to the master suite and replaced swing doors with sliding barn doors between the suite's bedroom and bath as well as between the basement media room and guest quarters.
In addition, Wasserman often collaborates with artisans and designers to produce the hand-crafted elements that have become a signature of her luxurious style of gracious flow and subdued tones. The entry's autumnal runner and cherrywood bench and console offer embracing colors and textures—without which the long entry hall and the large kitchen beyond might well feel forbidding.
One entire corner of the kitchen is given over to Wasserman's handsome breakfast nook. Right angles dominate, with an L-shape banquette covered in toffee-colored leather, squared-off chairs, a rectangular cherrywood table, and a row of five paper-covered oblong lanterns by John Wigmore.
On the way up to the second floor, that somewhat earthy aesthetic turns sexy. The stairwell's sidewall is draped in a cascade of aluminum-coil drapery splashed by low-voltage halogen trough lighting, and a monumental black-and-white figure painting hangs at the landing. The piece is by Doug Henders, one of the painters whom Wasserman—a former art dealer—continues to represent.
The second-floor living and dining rooms, where her client often entertains large groups, face each other across the stair hall. Since many of those parties are buffets, Wasserman made sure that the dining room's ebonized-cherry table was long and narrow enough to be used for serving; slim, high-backed chairs reappear for more formal sit-downs. The room owes its Asian flair to an ebonized-cherry credenza, shelf system, and ladder along one wall. The clustered glass orbs of Achille Castiglioni's chandelier lend a dash of glam.
In the living room—with its 30-foot ceiling—welcoming, intimate lighting presented a real challenge. Museum-quality track lighting was the solution, supplemented by mood lighting from sculptor Helen Gifford's series of spiky Urchin Constellation pendant globes. To enhance the room's height, Leitch designed a walnut-and-cherry focal wall that rises above the fireplace. The flowing silk curtains' horizontal stripes balance the soaring verticality. Andrée Putman's deco-style sofa, club chairs, and ottoman convey a femininity that softens the room's strong lines.
The master suite is a sensuous world unto itself. In the bedroom, a TV rises on command from the bed's cherrywood footboard—which also holds his-and-hers hampers. Walls on either side are fitted with floor-to-ceiling sycamore closets, while the floor is tiled in burgundy leather.
On the other side of Leitch's barn doors, the bathroom is a refuge clad in blue-green glass tiles. Water floods down one tiled wall, from the ceiling to the soaking tub. The shower and toilet are screened by a floating wall that backs the vanity, a chunky composition of two rectangular sinks, a granite slab counter, and curly-maple cabinets. A few curves enter the picture in the form of Christian Liaigre's amply cushioned wool-covered chair.
Serious relaxation zones occupy the very bottom and top of the house. In the basement media room, a sultry departure from the floors above, Wasserman painted the walls a satin espresso brown, tiled the floor in deep-russet leather, and upholstered Antonio Citterio's sectional sofa and slinky lounge chair in ruby red, almost the same color as the room's expressionistic Hunt Slonem bird painting. Above the fifth and sixth floors's bedrooms, a planted patio and deck invite lounging among the TriBeCa rooftops—assuming that Wasserman's client is as lucky with weather as she is with life.