Call of the wild
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 9/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Mariano Puente left his native Argentina more than 18 years ago, but the designer's heart and sensibility remain rooted in his homeland's aesthetic—both of them. "I grew up in Buenos Aires, surrounded by modernism. Yet it was a modernism mixed with very strong classical influences," he says. "I came to understand that both extremes are rooted in the same concepts: balance, quality, and craftsmanship." As principal of Mariano Designs, Puente has perfected a sophisticated yet unmannered touch that similarly melds contemporary and traditional idioms, whether for an antiques-filled town house, a high-tech nightclub, or something in between.
Hired to renovate a TriBeCa loft in a converted textile mill—a 3,500-square-foot space distinguished by 15-foot ceilings and a row of exposed steel columns—many designers would have automatically opted for industrial chic. Puente, however, took special care to honor his clients' request for something welcoming. "They're a young couple who work in finance and live extremely hectic lives, but they leave their work at the office. When they're home, they want to feel truly at home," he explains.
Puente tempered the loft's loftiness with linen drapery that flutters from ceiling to floor. Extra luster derives from walls of high-gloss Venetian plaster, deployed in two tones of taupe. And the floor's new 7-inch-wide oak planks were stained in successive coats of black and brown for a translucent finish with warmth and depth. "One of my favorite tricks," says Puente.
As for furnishings, he continues, he sourced "simple elements that the clients can add to, as they continue experimenting over time. The mix acknowledges that they're young and that their lifestyle will change and shift." The bedroom, den, and open-plan public area feature contemporary furnishings already well on their way to becoming classics: a low L-shape sectional sofa by Patricia Urquiola, Antonio Citterio's wengé dining table, chairs, and cabinets, an Asian-inspired dark-stained bamboo bed. Injecting a little kookiness are paintings and carvings from the couple's folk-art collection, the bedroom's Jasper Morrison Glo-Ball lamp, and the living room's zebra-skin rug.
The wildlife doesn't end there. A 10-foot-wide fish tank between the kitchen and the dining area doubles as a room divider and a light source, imparting a moody glow. "Although the loft is on the sixth floor, there's a floaty, underwater feeling," says Puente. To play off that theme, he installed a video projector in the living area to cast aqueous digital imagery on the wall above the sofa. "It's like an exaggerated reflection of the fish tank," he says. And perhaps an intimation of design evolutions to come.