Jeannie Rosenfeld -- Interior Design, 9/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
When your client is a retail executive design-savvy enough to wear beautifully tailored suits—with neon pinstripes, no less—not just any apartment will do. And if he collects Asian antiques and contemporary art to boot? Something simultaneously whimsical and dignified is required.
Lynnette Widder and Christian Volkmann, the principals of Aardvarchitecture, delivered both at a 1920's penthouse at the top of New York's Central Park. Rich materials and smart lighting ensure that everything is streamlined but not austere. More important, though, is the fact that the 1,600-square-foot apartment has uninterrupted north, south, and west exposures from a 1,000-square-foot wraparound terrace.
To maximize the views, Widder and Volkmann enlarged windows throughout and installed glass doors that run practically the width of the living room. In the master bath, the pair carved out a 3 1/2-by-6 1/2-foot opening for glass doors and built a soaking tub just inside them—allowing the owner to step out of the water and onto the terrace if he wants. The building's height means privacy isn't an issue.
"We like to play off an ambiguous, through-the-looking-glass world evoked in reflections and continuity," Widder says. Indeed, if bathing practically en plein air in the city seems like a fantasy, the bathroom itself is dreamlike, lined in luminous quartzite-veined white Nigerian marble painstakingly pieced together from larger slabs.
The room's mirrored medicine cabinet gracefully embraces a second, deep-set window, situated above the sink. The contents of the cabinet are revealed—and the window temporarily obscured—when the cabinet's central panel slides open. Side panels are accented by vertical strips of frosty yellow light, achieved by sandblasting the mirror's silver backing and installing incandescent bulbs in the niches behind.
The overall effect is thoroughly modern but a touch surreal. As Widder says, "It's a little bit magical. Things are unexpected."
Less lavish, the second bathroom is located off a library that doubles as a guest room. There's only a shower, no tub, and the wall and floor tiles are composite granite. But the stone shimmers silver-gray, the veins flowing together seamlessly.
Warmer grays, flecked with green and orange, set the tone in the kitchen, where dappled Brazilian granite tops cabinetry of stained anigre. Although Widder and Volkmann left the apartment's overall layout intact, they did knock down a partition to open up the kitchen to the dining area. They also raised the kitchen's ceiling 14 inches, further enhancing the prewar space's contemporary appeal for this most exacting of clients.