Room Service, Please
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
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Some see hotels as homes away from home. For D.B. Kim, it's the other way around. He calls his Chelsea apartment "my New York hotel room." As vice president of design at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, he's currently overseeing the brand's makeover of its 400-plus properties worldwide, so he spends nearly a third of the year on the road.
Globe-trotting or not, he's also his own toughest customer; his unpretentious one-bedroom is both a personal domain and a laboratory for his work. "I needed it to be warm, comforting, a place where I could come to refuel," he continues—sounding like a true hospitality pro.
At 700 square feet, the fourth-floor apartment is Kim's second in London Terrace, a row of 1931 brick buildings. He was drawn to their creative vibe—Susan Sontag and Debbie Harry have lived there—though the actual apartment had its drawbacks. The previous owner, actress Bridget Moynahan, "liked lots of purple," he remarks.
After rejiggering a few walls, giving the oak floor a darker walnut finish, and applying a coat of the palest gray paint, Kim was good to go. "I just cleaned everything up," he says. The galley kitchen now gleams with cabinets clad in brushed stainless steel, and the bathroom glistens in Carrara marble.
Perhaps the most important part of Kim's task was to arrange the artifacts of his travels, work, and life. Originally from South Korea, he's a lifelong Buddhist, and the living area's Cambodian and Chinese antique Buddhas reflect that. They join other souvenirs of his trips in the U.S. and abroad. A turquoise jug comes from Palm Springs, California; glass vases are from Venice. An entire wall of artwork, mounted salon-style, further reveals the wanderlust of Kim's eye: Ed Ruscha prints, photographs of Yucatán and Afghan landscapes, a digitized imaginary cityscape.
On a cocktail table made from a petrified tree root, a white resin Harry Allen bowl, cast in the shape of a bunch of bananas, adds a dose of whimsy. So does a bright red Marcel Wanders mushroom stool. "I choose things mostly by instinct," Kim notes. Meanwhile, ready-made wengé-finished bookcases and matching storage boxes reveal his professional inclination for what he calls "approachable luxury."
Above the 1950's rosewood desk that serves as a dining table, ringed by Jean Prouvé chairs and vintage Michael Thonet stacking stools, is a version of the chandelier that Kim designed for Swarovski's "Crystal Palace" exhibition in 2006. In fact, evidence of his own talent is everywhere. A custom maple side table seems to fit together puzzle-style. A maple-framed full-length mirror and an oak daybed are both prototypes from his years as design director at Westin Hotels & Resorts, which like Sheraton is a division of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. A natural flax-wool rug is a prototype for another Starwood brand, Element by Westin.
Of course, the work influence goes both ways. Two plump armchairs are Swedish 1920's originals that Kim is studying for Sheraton. "I like to live with something before it's out there for our guests," he says. "I'm only one guinea pig, but I'm the harshest."
In the bedroom, a pair of simple glass side tables by Eileen Gray, a wengé slat-backed armchair by Christian Liaigre, and a red-topped pedestal table by Peter Zumthor, a mentor and former instructor, join the Heavenly bed that Kim designed for Westin. Blackout curtains in luxe cream leather are another hotel touch, a blessing for the perpetually jet-lagged.
FROM FRONT COWTAN & TOUT: PILLOW FABRIC (LIVING AREA). VITRA: CHAIR (DINING AREA). HOLLY HUNT: DAYBED FABRIC (LIVING AREA), CHAIR (BEDROOM). MOHAWK INDUSTRIES: RUGS (LIVING AREA, BEDROOM). SWAROVSKI: CUSTOM CHANDELIER (DINING AREA). THROUGH URBAN ARCHAEOLOGY: TABLE, STOOLS. AREAWARE: BOWL (LIVING AREA). THROUGH ABC CARPET & HOME: LAMPS. CONRAN: BOOKCASES, STORAGE BOXES (LIVING AREA), THROW (BEDROOM). MOROSO THROUGH MOSS: STOOL (LIVING AREA). NESSEN LIGHTING: PENDANT FIXTURE (KITCHEN). ELECTROLUX: RANGE, HOOD. DAL-TILE CORPORATION: TILE. THROUGH DESIGN WITHIN REACH: BEDSIDE TABLES (BEDROOM). WESTIN HOTELS RESORTS: BED. KOJO WORLDWIDE: CUSTOM CURTAINS. VALLEY FORGE FABRICS: CURTAIN MATERIAL. THROUGHOUT BENJAMIN MOORE & CO.: PAINT.