A bare-naked Lichtenstein does a little Broadway boogie-woogie, Mondrian-style, through a midtown Manhattan apartment by D'Aquino Monaco.
Abby Bussel -- Interior Design, 2/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
EVERYBODY LOVES A GRID . Roy Lichtenstein used them in his comic-strip-inspired Pop Art, Piet Mondrian sent them shifting in all directions geometric, and Carl D'Aquino and Francine Monaco of D'Aquino Monaco employed them to organize space and to articulate surfaces in this high-rise residence. The designers' scheme for this art collectors' apartment, which is located in the condominium tower above the Museum of Modern Art, is derived from a painting bought solely for that purpose, one "Nude with Yellow Beach Bag," a late work by Mr. Lichtenstein. Like the painting, the interior design is about texture and color, the gaze and the view.
The clients wanted a subtle, muted background-"almost a Zen-like palette, earthy and contemplative," says D'Aquino-to accommodate their collection of modern art. The collection also includes works by John Marin and photographer Alexander Vethers. Dramatic vignettes of the city skyline complement the art collection; from the windows, one can see Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, and Philip Johnson's Chippendale-topped tower, among many other icons of Gotham architecture. "The walls, floor, and ceiling become quietly active elements in engaging the view and drawing the city into the space," the designers write. Custom-made anodized aluminum channels frame each window, transforming spectacular swaths of the cityscape into discrete but interconnected vistas on two exposures.
To accentuate the views and make a free-flowing interior, the designers gutted the apartment down to its structural members. With the exception of the sculptural shape of the kitchen wall across from the entry foyer, all lines are straight and all views framed in this 1,700-sq.-ft. residence. The curved, stucco-clad wall of the kitchen guides the eye from the entry through the foyer and straight to the skyline views through the living room windows. While D'Aquino and Monaco found their color palette in the clients' Lichtenstein, their organizational system came from the strong geometric lines of nearby 30 Rockefeller Center, which, D'Aquino explains, "we related to as an abstract Mondrian painting." Like Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie-Woogie," painted in New York in the early 1940s to reflect the dynamic grid of the city and now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art below, the designers' vertical and horizontal planes of color establish a rhythmic pattern.
A large sliding wall between the living room and master bedroom has a Mondrian-inspired grid that incorporates three neutral tones of Venetian stucco bordered by anodized aluminum strips. These planes of muted color become further abstracted as they wrap around the perimeter walls, each wall a single tone of pigmented stucco. (This textured finish comes with a pedigree: the stucco artisan's father worked with none other than Carlo Scarpa in Italy back in the day.) The nine-foot ceiling in the living room is vaulted slightly to hide the museum-quality lighting pin-spots that bathe the stucco walls in warm light. A similar, Mondrianesque pattern is found in the floors of both the vestibule and the dining area, which is part of the living room. A grid made up of four different limestones (three French and one Italian) gives these two areas a distinctive tone. In combination with the floor-to-ceiling windows, the patterned limestone floor of the dining area, for example, gains a kind of terrace-like quality, setting it apart from the living room proper.
As with the limestone floors, sliding doors are also used to define spaces. In addition to the large sliding door that, depending on its position, separates and joins the living room and master bedroom, there are two sliding walls that close off the den from the kitchen and foyer, making it into a private guest room whenever the need arises. One of the few spaces in the apartment with a traditional door but without a window is the master bathroom, which features a glass sink and countertop and glass walls. To make up for the lack of a window, the bathroom walls are clad in mirror-backed sandblasted glass, its frosted reflective surface creating the only amorphous view in the place.
In addition to partners Carl D'Aquino and Francine Monaco, the project team included Nathaniel Worden, Dawn Barry, and Jeff Doucette.