An Apartment Inspired by Its Owners’ Favorite Restaurants

From the outside, the building, a seven-story former garment and textile factory on Bond Street with an ornate cast-iron and terra-cotta facade, looks much as it did in 1895, when it was constructed. Indeed, it met the criteria for architectural significance laid out by New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2008, when the organization extended the eastern limit of NoHo’s official historic district, in an effort to maintain the 19th-century vernacular of the small pocket of cobblestone streets that runs between Lafayette and the Bowery, and East Fourth and Bond Streets. Once a booming commercial corridor, the district sprung up during the 1890s, its mix of Romanesque, Revival and Classical styles defined by some of the most noted firms of the day. But this particular building’s well-preserved exterior belies what’s inside on its fifth floor. There, one family has created a cozy and distinctly contemporary home that draws inspiration not from the neighborhood’s past — nor from the influential ’70s and ’80s loft conversions of nearby SoHo — but from the owners’ favorite local restaurants.

It was one of these spots, the Lower East Side cocktail bar Elsa, where the couple were regulars before it moved across the river to Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, that led them to Oliver Haslegrave, the designer who would oversee their renovation, completed in early 2020. Haslegrave’s now 11-year-old firm, Home Studios, designed the bar, along with the since-closed East Village restaurant Goat Town, where the couple had also spent many evenings. They were drawn to the warm ambience and top-to-bottom custom touches of both spaces, including the restaurant’s rows of glossy white-tiled wood banquettes, and emailed the designer asking to meet. “They just said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could see what they would do in our home?’” Haslegrave recalls. Until that point, Home Studios had, with one exception, only ever dealt in commercial design. It had built out a portfolio of hospitality projects that also includes the Spaniard in Manhattan and Tørst and June in Brooklyn, through which the firm had become known for its unusual forms — such as dramatically curved walls — and experimental approach to materials, including lighting made out of bread-proofing trays and, at Goat Town, a chandelier crafted from croquet mallets. It was with a similar spirit of adventure that Haslegrave agreed to take on the residential venture.

As it turned out, though, reimagining the family’s 2,000-square-foot home, a three-bedroom floor-through unit, wasn’t a complete departure for the designer. The building was once a commercial space, after all, and the owners, who have two young children, had been impressed by Haslegrave’s ability to reimagine utilitarian environments as inviting refuges. To pull off a similar transformation here, he decided to leave the bones of the apartment largely as he found them: “The width, the length, the ceiling height, the windows, the original maple flooring all felt very prewar New York to me,” he says. But he did draw on his experiences as a onetime student of cinema and as a former fiction editor at the publishing house Little, Brown and Company to overlay a new narrative — “a story of playful curiosity and devotion to detail” — onto the interior. The protagonist might be Farrow & Ball’s James White, whose subtle green tinge complements the home’s other colors — cream, copper and sandy brown, all chosen for their toasty, mellow, quality — and draws out the warmth of the wood furniture, several pieces of which, including the living room’s ribbed-front oak and brass shelving unit and cane-top coffee table, were designed by Home Studios.

“Their big goals and principles were: a diversity of materials and an appreciation of warmth and sourcing,” Haslegrave says of the clients. To amplify the softening effect of the new color scheme, he decided to avoid sharp edges wherever possible throughout the home. In their place, curved lines gently guide a visitor’s eye from one surface to another — over the saddle-style arm rests of an ivory-colored wool and walnut Howard sofa by the New York-based firm Egg Collective in the living room, around a corner clad with an arc of oak, down the hallway toward an arched alcove between the doors to the two bedrooms, and along the low-lying, rounded silhouette of a carved-wood lounge chair by the Los Angeles-based studio Atelier de Troupe in the main bedroom. That room also features the piece that perhaps best exemplifies the home’s recurring motifs: the midcentury-style walnut bed that Home Studios designed for the couple with a copper, rattan caning and travertine headboard whose ends have been smoothed into elegant quarter circles.

As Haslegrave sees it, “Curved corners or tiles show that extra attention was paid, it shows the craft that went into making something.” Accordingly, when choosing furniture for the home to sit alongside the 10 custom creations made by Home Studios, he privileged handcrafted pieces by like-minded makers such as the Brooklyn-based company Fort Standard, which supplied the rectangular walnut dining table, and the fellow New Yorkers Chen Chen and Kai Williams, who made one of their lava-like silver-toned Liquid Metal stools, formed by casting aluminum in a tank of water gel beads, for the living room. The latter piece adds a hint of sparkle to the home’s otherwise muted tones, and nods to the glitz of a mirrored bar or candlelit four-top at one of Home Studios’s hospitality projects.

But to make sure the space felt lived in rather than too starkly new, Haslegrave finished each room with vintage furnishings and textiles. A pair of 1950s Danish woven leather chairs, a wooden Art Deco-style lamp from the Netherlands, and a French 1940s teal and orange rug with a concentric rectangle pattern add texture to the living room. In one of the kids’ rooms, a 1950s teak Vittorio Dassi desk and hutch sits next to a cream Moroccan Beni rug with neon detailing from the 1980s. And around the dining table, Haslegrave positioned a set of Niels Otto Møller’s 1950s-era peg-legged Model 80 chairs, reupholstered in a mossy velvet.

In the evenings, that seating arrangement, bathed in the glow of the three-bulb glass Home Studios pendant that hangs above it, is the site of dinners that feel as though they’re taking place in a private room or around a communal table at one of the couple’s beloved restaurants. (In normal times, both partners are enthusiastic hosts.) But Haslegrave was conscious, too, to combine his cues from the culinary world with practical design solutions — an open floor plan, for instance, and ample kitchen storage for stashing snacks — that would make everyday life for the family just as enjoyable as entertaining here. In doing so, his team was ultimately struck by the similarities between creating a successful restaurant and a comfortable apartment: In the end, both should be places where people come together to eat, unwind and have a good time. “You’re welcoming guests and you want to make them feel good, in whatever form,” he says, “whether it’s a hotel or a bar” — or, in this case, a home.

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