To renovate a New York apartment upstairs from their own, Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown brought in Gary Morgenroth
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 3/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
The lush life at the Beresford, Emery Roth & Sons's deluxe 1929 New York high-rise overlooking Central Park, is catnip for celebrities-Jerry Seinfeld, John McEnroe, and Diana Ross reportedly live in the building. Interior Design Hall of Fame members Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown, luminaries in their own right, share a loftlike duplex there, too. "Basically, we knocked down all of the walls," Tsao says, laughing. The partners then installed a big stainless-steel kitchen island and a white spiral stair. Adjacent to a bank of windows overlooking the Hayden Planetarium addition by Polshek Partnership Architects, a sun-drenched seating area centers on one of the building's coveted working fireplaces.
Thanks to myriad magazine features, the duplex is famous in design circles. Still, some Beresford residents remained in the dark. Take Tsao and McKown's workout buddies from the basement gym. An executive and his wife, they had lived on three other continents before settling with their family at the Beresford. Now, with the children grown, the 3,200-square-foot apartment was chopped up with bedrooms no longer strictly needed. "They were either going to downsize or stay and have a good time," McKown says. So the duplex was a revelation to them when they visited for a cocktail. Dazzled, they decided in a flash against selling-provided they could get some of that Tsao & McKown Architects magic.
Mindful of the politics associated with working on home turf, the partners decided that it would be prudent to refer the job to a former employee who now heads his own firm, Gary Morgenroth Architect. They assumed essentially a consulting role, with deputies attending all the site meetings. "Is that your personal best, Gary?" Tsao kidded, as Morgenroth drew and redrew floor plans. With a few strokes of a pen, corridors and extra rooms disappeared. But it would take some serious cheerleading, verging on arm-twisting, to sell such an extensive remodel to the couple. "That was Zack's and my job," Tsao deadpans. Morgenroth adds, "We persuaded them that it would change the way they lived."
Of course, challenges emerged as walls came down. "When you open up a space, you can lose the sense of sequence," Tsao explains. For instance, without relying on internal walls, how do you define an alcove as a formal dining area? The architects used the barest of gestures to suggest enclosure. On one side is the leading edge of a freestanding divider that screens the pantry. On another side, the barrier is a low white cabinet that, extending from the base of a structural column, backs a sofa in the living area.
At the end of the dining area that does have conventional walls, they're now punctuated by a pair of shojilike frosted-glass panels facing each other-fronting either a window onto an air shaft or a cabinet for china. The pendant fixture over the table has a boxy resin shade similar to one in Tsao and McKown's breakfast nook. Here, though, there are programmable color-changing LEDs inside. Recessed ceiling fixtures can add brighter incandescent light when needed. "They were living with a few lamps in the corners for years," Morgenroth says.
Throughout the project, Tsao's refrain remained: "Remember, Zack and I are only the advisers. And don't call us the decorators." But it was fun to obsess about surfaces. Tsao and McKown diverged a bit from the white minimalism of their own apartment, giving the neighbors a troweled-plaster chimney breast and a firebox lined in a gray soapstone chosen for its gorgeous tone. Elsewhere, the mood is even more luxe. Materials reflect "the family's history of living in Asia," Tsao says. He rattles off an appetizing list of spicy colors: saffron, curry, cumin, cardamom. The red-curry color of a divider demarcating the entry contrasts with the platinum leaf on the inside of the front door.
"Green tea" could describe the leather on the seat cushion and beefy double bolsters of a Le Corbusier-inspired daybed in the L-shape space containing the living area and library. The former is organized into two seating groups anchored by a long striped rug. A back-to-back double sofa serves both the living area and the library, which also features two barrel chairs on a smaller rug in the same stripes. As the furniture plan neared completion-French 1960's bronze lamps, sumptuous Thai silk pillows, and all-the husband belatedly mentioned how much he loves to sit with a cup of coffee and look out the window in the morning. Say what? Tsao and McKown came to the rescue with a biomorphic, asymmetrical version of the tête-à-tête sofa. It has room for two people to face the rest of the living area, while another person surveys Central Park.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
CATHERINE ROTHERMUND; MIKE NESS: GARY MORGENROTH ARCHITECT. MICHAEL HSIEH; RICHARD RHODES; JENNIFER VAUGHN MILLER; JEANNE CHOU: TSAO & MCKOWN ARCHITECTS. WALD STUDIO: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. E-HOME: AUDIOVISUAL CONSULTANT. CERAMI & ASSOCIATES: ACOUSTICAL CONSULTANT. TRI-POWER ENGINEERING: MEP. JM UPHOLSTERY: UPHOLSTERY WORKSHOP. MARY BRIGHT DESIGNS: DRAPERY WORKSHOP. FIELD DECORATIVE FINISHES: FINISH CONTRACTOR. SILVERLINING INTERIORS: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.
GLORIA SACHS: CHAIR FABRIC.
ENCORE LIGHTING: CUSTOM PENDANT FIXTURE.
BERGAMO FABRICS: L-SHAPE SOFA FABRIC (LIVING AREA).
GEORGE GILPIN: DAYBED.
DUALOY LEATHER: DAYBED UPHOLSTERY.
KIMCHEROVA: CHAIRS, SETTEE.
HOLLAND & SHERRY: CHAIR FABRIC, SETTEE FABRIC.
VANDERHURD: CUSTOM RUGS (LIVING AREA, LIBRARY, BEDROOMS).
MAGEN H. GALLERY: LAMPS (LIVING AREA).
MAHARAM: DOUBLE SOFA FABRIC.
LARSEN: CHAIR FABRIC (LIBRARY).
KVADRAT THROUGH MAHARAM: TÊTE-À-TÊTE SOFA FABRIC (LIVING AREA).
LACAVA: SINK (GUEST BATHROOM).
DORNBRACHT: TOWEL BAR (GUEST BATHROOM); SINK FITTINGS (BATHROOMS, POWDER ROOM); SHOWER FITTINGS (MASTER BATHROOM).
CAESARSTONE: COUNTER MATERIAL (BATHROOMS).
FLESSAS DESIGN: LAMPS (GUEST ROOM).
COSENTINO: COUNTER MATERIAL (POWDER ROOM).
SCARABEO CERAMICHE: SINKS (MASTER BATHROOM).
MADELINE WEINRIB: THROW FABRIC (GUEST ROOM).
RETRO MODERN: FLOOR LAMP (MASTER BEDROOM).
ASHBURY HIDES: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY.
SABINA FAY BRAXTON: THROW FABRIC.
SOIE DE LUNE: BOLSTER FABRIC.
AERO: READING LAMPS.
PAUL HAZLETT: UPHOLSTERY WORKSHOP
ATTA; BDDW; CARLTON HOUSE; FERRA DESIGNS; SFA INTERIORS; STUDIO 40: CUSTOM FURNITURE.
FABRICA; NANCY KOLTES: CUSTOM BEDDING.
NULUX: RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES.
BENJAMIN MOORE & CO.: PAINT.