2003: a space odyssey
In a 6,500-square-foot New York penthouse, 1100 Architect and Tony Ingrao went retro-futuristic
Fred A. Bernstein -- Interior Design, 1/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
"There are a lot of myths about this apartment," says interior designer Tony Ingrao, referring to the 6,500-square-foot penthouse of a Rosario Candela building in New York. The mythologizing began when the space wasn't even a residence, but a pair of ballrooms owned by the Vanderbilts and the Hookers, who lived downstairs and ascended to their fetes in oak-paneled elevators. Gilded coffered ceilings, a marble floor, carved fireplaces, and boiserie made for an Edwardian manor house all contributed to the cachet.
Previous spread: At a New York penthouse renovated and furnished by 1100 Architect and Tony Ingrao, the foyer features vintage Japanese seating and Martial Raysse's pouty canvas combining acrylic and fluorescent light.
Yet Ingrao helped persuade the new owners, Lisa Perry and her family, to strip away those details, turning the historically laden rooms into a cumulus cloud of an apartment that seems to float over Manhattan. Which is nothing if not ironic. Best known for designing grand country estates, Ingrao admits that his reputation may have gotten the project past the building's co-op board. "They thought it was going to be another Vanderbilt mansion," he says, chuckling.
If they thought that, they weren't familiar with Perry or her architect, David Piscuskas. A principal of 1100 Architect, he's associated with stripped-down modernism, so much so that he doesn't always get the credit he deserves. (His art-world clients, including Jasper Johns and David Salle, prefer that their homes not look too done.) About five years ago, Piscuskas says, he did some work on Perry's previous apartment. A miniskirted dynamo with teased hair and pale lipstick, she collects—and regularly wears—Rudi Gernreich, Paco Rabanne, and Courrèges.
Declaring the '60s and '70s her "favorite period in design," she imagined a home to match her wardrobe. "Very futuristic," she said, meaning the future as envisioned when vinyl and fake fur were considered luxe. And "very couture," Ingrao adds.
In addition, Perry had been buying pop art with a vengeance. "You could tell from her art how modern she wanted to go," says Ingrao. Call it pop architecture. Details include a 10-foot-high vinyl-and-acrylic headboard, which he designed in the style of Verner Panton. In the library, Piscuskas and project manager Christine Harper suspended white steel-and-acrylic shelves from acrylic wall surfaces backlit with neon. Books are arranged according to the colors of their spines. "The '60s were very designed—the rough, downtown thing came later," explains Ingrao. Indeed, the new interior is every bit as complex as the one it replaced.
Before Perry bought the apartment, which had been languishing on the market for several years, she'd invited Piscuskas over to inspect. "Time had passed it by," he says. The layout, with the two ballrooms separated by servants' quarters, wasn't exactly practical for a couple and two children. And although the apartment opened onto a wraparound terrace, windows and doors were small. Says Ingrao, "There was no light, and the views were hidden. It wouldn't let you breathe."
Taking charge of the disposal of the architectural details, he consigned the Regency-style paneling to be auctioned at Christie's. Ornate mantelpieces went to dealer Danny Alessandro. A pair of walnut-and-gilt George II-style doors ended up in Ingrao's new furniture gallery on the Upper East Side.
Piscuskas, meanwhile, had to figure out a way to make the U-shape layout function. He divided one ballroom into a master suite and media room. The other ballroom, a mere 850 square feet, became the Perrys' living room. Between the two, at the base of the U, a warren of small rooms became a dining room and kitchen, now the only route from one half of the apartment to the other. (Of course, walking through this kitchen, with its stainless-steel cabinets and East River views, is not exactly like sneaking through a pantry.) Children's bedrooms, a guest room, a library, and a maid's room fill out the corners. "It's modern," says Piscuskas. "Rooms flow into other rooms, which is unusual for an apartment of this stature and vintage."
Center, left: The media room's decor was inspired by the Pucci fabric on the Patrick Norguet chairs. Ingrao designed the carpet.
Bottom, left: Piscuskas used stainless-steel cabinets and an Eero Saarinen table and chairs to create a kitchen tailored enough to serve as a pass-through from public to private zones.
Once he'd divided the spaces, Piscuskas turned to enlarging 60-odd windows, sometimes more than doubling the amount of glass. Inside, nearly every surface is reflective. Skylights appear as milky-white bubbles; white marble chips float in the white epoxy of the floor. Where walls meet ceilings, 1100 Architect substituted generous curves for corners by plastering over precast forms. With no hard lines indicating where one surface ends and another surface begins, dimensions become ambiguous. Architecture recedes, and gravity seems to take a vacation.
Opposite: A vintage Marimekko fabric set the tone for the guest room. The hallway's "spider man" is a Joel Shapiro sculpture.
Ingrao's gestures are correspondingly large. Much of the furniture is built in, and pieces that aren't, such as the sofas in the living room, are multiplied into room-size compositions. The art is also architectural in scale. In the living room, an 8-by-12-foot Roy Lichtenstein painting of a living room visually extends the interior beyond its physical confines.
The only problem is that, given the apartment's U shape, the ethereal spaces often look onto terraces and red-brick walls. Consequently, the rooms seem far more earthbound in the daytime than Piscuskas and Ingrao had intended. (The Perrys are seeking board approval to paint the exterior a lighter color.) At night, the interiors glow, the exteriors recede, and Piscuskas accomplishes his goal of "creating shelter without enclosure." When it's time to leave and the elevator doors open to reveal the oak-paneled cab, it's as if the 19th century, darker and heavier, has intruded into the 21st. Someday, perhaps, Piscuskas and Ingrao will panel the elevator in Lucite.
Opposite: Nearly all of the dining room's surfaces are reflective. The acrylic on canvas is by Bridget Riley.
PROJECT TEAM (1100 ARCHITECT): DOUG KOCHER; STACY MILLMAN; DAVID LATER; JOANNA CHEN. PROJECT TEAM (INGRAO): RANDOLPH KEMPER; GIUSEPPE PICA. BENCH, STOOLS (FOYER), SIDE CHAIR (LIBRARY), CHAIRS (MASTER BEDROOM), GIANT WHISK (KITCHEN), MIRROR (DAUGHTERS ROOM): THROUGH ART INDUSTRIAL DESIGN. CARPET (LIBRARY, DAUGHTERS ROOM): STARK CARPET CORPORATION. SOFA, OTTOMAN (LIBRARY): BB ITALIA. CHAIRS (DINING ROOM, MEDIA ROOM): CAPPELLINI. COCKTAIL TABLES (LIVING ROOM): KUNDALINI THROUGH C.I.T.E. DESIGN. CARPET (LIVING ROOM, MEDIA ROOM, MASTER BEDROOM, DRESSING ROOM): DARIUS DECORATIVE ANTIQUE RUGS. WINDOW SEAT FABRIC (MEDIA ROOM): CLARENCE HOUSE. PILLOW FABRIC: MAHARAM. TABLE, CHAIRS (KITCHEN): KNOLL. CABINETRY: BOFFI. CUSTOM HEADBOARD (MASTER BEDROOM): J.T. DESIGNS; THROUGH POLLACK (FABRIC). LOUNGE CHAIRS: TWENTYTWENTYONE; THROUGH KRAVET FABRICS (FABRIC). OTTOMANS (DAUGHTERS ROOM): TOTEM DESIGN. CUSTOM SKYLIGHTS: ATLANTECH SYSTEMS. NEON LIGHTING: PATRICK NASH DESIGN. METALWORK: PERFECT CIRCLE METALWORKS. CONSULTANTS: AUDIO VIDEO CRAFTS (AUDIOVISUAL); JOHNSON SCHWINGHAMMER LIGHTING DESIGN (LIGHTING); SHEN MILSOM WILKE (ACOUSTIC). STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: ROBERT SILMAN ASSOCIATES. MEP: DANTONIO CONSULTING ENGINEERS. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: RD RICE CONSTRUCTION.