Annie Block -- Interior Design, 9/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
We're all indebted to our elders—Nathaniel Bisson more than some others. From his grandfather, who lived near George Nakashima in Pennsylvania, Bisson inherited an enviable collection of original furniture. His grandmother was the one who sold him her Midtown one-bedroom for under $75,000 in 1999.
In 2004, when Bisson, a marketing consultant, and his partner, music executive Keith Naftaly, bought the one-bedroom upstairs to create a duplex, they turned to Architecture in Formation principal Matt Bremer, not a blood relative but nonetheless a kindred spirit—recommended by a mid-century dealer that Bisson buys from in Los Angeles. "Nathaniel's New York apartment has a lot of the same character as his former L.A. house," says Bremer, who flew out there to get a sense of how his client used to live. "It ties together pieces of his and Keith's lives."
In addition to combining the two vertically contiguous 550-square-foot apartments with a straight-run stair, Bremer's gut renovation involved a massive mechanicals overhaul; reengineering a load-bearing wall; adding steel beams to open up the living and dining areas; replacing the windows with larger ones; and redoing all surfaces. The result is Southern California cool meets New York smart—achieved via color, texture, and spatial play.
Take the former galley kitchen. Bremer paired shiny stainless-steel cabinetry and appliances with a backsplash of tiny gray-and-white ceramic tile and counters of veined burgundy quartzite. "It's so '80's boardroom. But decontextualized," he notes. Right outside the kitchen, a cascading crystal chandelier and Nakashima's cherrywood bar and stools add the wow factor.
Bremer tricks the eye with materials and colors. The entry is intentionally dark and low—with black terrazzo underfoot and a 2 1/2-foot-deep soffit above. The mode switches to bright and lofty in the living and dining area, where the ceiling rises to 10 1/2 feet and the floor is quarter-sawn white oak. Surfaces painted in saturated blue or orange punctuate the media room beyond.
The high-low ceiling trick recurs upstairs but in reverse. At the top of the stair, in the passageway that includes Bisson's home office, the ceiling is just 7 1/2 feet. Then it rises to 91/2 feet in the bedroom.
Thanks to a heavy curtain in sienna-colored nubby silk that coordinates with one wall's exposed brick, the bedroom, Bremer says, "totally blacks out." The platform bed's integrated bench encourages lounging in front of the fireplace, as does a freestanding tub by Philippe Starck. (The shower is next door in the bathroom.)
A headboard covered in bluish-green faux horsehair backs up to paneling of simple cedar deck material. "The wood ties in to the humbleness of the building," Bremer says of the walk-up. "But it's also very L.A. backyard fence." Step out to the terrace, though, and you'll catch a glimpse not of the Hollywood sign but of Foster and Partners's gleaming Hearst Tower.