The Un-Private Apartment
Hariri & Hariri makes theory reality, combining two New York co-ops for art collectors
C.C. Sullivan -- Interior Design, 3/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
When Gisue Hariri and Mojgan Hariri designed a speculative Digital House in 1998, it was a captivating if unlikely stab at tomorrow's "smart" shelter, replete with embedded sensors and digital wallpaper. More important, however, the experiment catapulted Hariri & Hariri—Architecture into the realm of high art as part of "The Un-Private House" at New York's Museum of Modern Art. This partnership with the art world would help land increasingly challenging commissions.
Today, the Hariris are the go-to sisters for clients whose projects entail large art programs. Yet the duo never designed a dwelling-as-gallery until they were asked by friends, over cocktails, to redo two adjoining apartments in a 1971 tower halfway across town from MoMA.
Much of the clients' story was typical enough: Two kids, teen and tween, were agitating for their own rooms, and everyone needed space to breathe. But there was also a fifth "family member" whose needs trumped everyone else's—a remarkable collection of contemporary art.
"To live with the artwork all around them, the home had to be designed around the artwork," Gisue Hariri says. "Lighting was critical, and wall space was sacred." The art tour begins with a bang in the entry hall, which is dominated by a black-and-white mural of walking figures commissioned from Julian Opie.
The entry sets up a materials palette that carries through the 5,000-square-foot combined apartment: beige limestone flooring, creamy whites and earthy browns for walls with crisp reveals, and dark wengé veneer. Wengé-veneered paneling rises up one wall and continues across the ceiling in an embrace that subtly repeats in different ways elsewhere to call attention to a specific art piece or design element. "While the continuity creates a certain serenity, we manipulated it to not be the same in every room," Gisue Hariri says.
From the entry, one glimpses more artwork displayed in rooms washed in daylight. To the left gleams an elegant kitchen. It's dominated by a marble-slab island built around a square structural column, now clad in the same marble, and supported on one side by cabinets in zebrawood and bluestone. The latter brings out the white marble's grayish-blue veins while complementing the stainless steel of the hood and appliances and the frosted glass of the cabinet fronts.
For those lucky enough to view the master bath, it's yet another sensuous surprise. Horizontal planes of limestone—floor, bench, step—intersect with a wall completely covered in partially embedded white pebbles. Above the nook that contains the soaking tub, a wengé canopy creates contrast and intimacy.
The master bedroom is one of many spaces where furniture yields focus, as a long, low built-in bench divides the sleeping area from a study. In the living room, the salvaged wood of a cocktail table's base is typical John Houshmand. Look closely at the tabletop, however, and you'll notice that the proportions of the clear glass box echo those of a rectangular mirrored niche set into a nearby wall, like a hearth. Another Hariri talent: establishing impressive architectural frames for art. The passage to the family room reveals a baby grand piano and another prominent work by Opie, a subtly animated LCD screen of a droll bikini-clad woman smoking and winking.
The clients' sense of humor further reveals itself in the dining room, where three tongue-in-cheek prints by Damien Hirst are linked by their pharmaceutical themes. Opposite, a white lacquered buffet is built into the wall below a Shirin Neshat photograph of a shade tree. In the center of the space, a rectangular crystal chandelier lends elegance to a glass-topped table set off by Philippe Starck chairs in faux alligator. The room is perhaps odd to describe, but it's a sublime place to dine.
Given the International Style building's rigid structural grid and 9-foot ceilings, the overall openness is all the more impressive. The apartment may have been conceived as a gallery for contemporary art, however the result is child-friendly, practical, and tactile. Frosted-glass partitions—most are actually sliding doors—admit sunshine while maintaining privacy. Light fixtures are effective yet well hidden.
Similarly invisible is the Hariris' depth of effort. Working with 3-D software similar to that used for their hypothetical Digital House a decade ago, the sisters produced renderings that precisely captured the feel of every room, delivering on the promise of technology made at MoMA.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
Bieinna Ham (Assistant Project Interior Designer); Thierry Pfister (Project Architect): Hariri & Hariri—Architecture. Rya Design Consultancy: Lighting Consultant. Dcm Systems: Audiovisual Consultant. Ip Group Consulting Engineers: Mep. J&J Johnson: General Contractor.
Mourastarr: Table (Dining Room). Swarovski: Chandelier. BergamoFabrics: Curtain Fabric (Dining, Living Rooms). Kartell: Chairs (Dining Room, Bedroom). John Houshmand: Custom Cocktail Table (Living Room). Odegard: Custom Rugs. Minotti: Sectional, Club Chairs, Side Table (Living Room), Cocktail Table (Family Room). Mark Albrecht Studio Through Dennis Miller Associates: Stools (Kitchen). Viking Range Corporation: Cooktop. Miele: Hood. Sub-Zero: Refrigerator. William Haines Designs Through Profiles: Klismos Chairs, Sofa, Table (Living Room). Maharam: Pillow Fabric. Maurice Villency: Sectional (Family Room). Tufenkian Carpets: Rug. Kohler Co.: Tub, Sinks (Bathroom). Dornbracht: Sink Fittings (Bathrooms). Stark Carpet Corporation: Custom Rugs (Bedroom). Dessin Fournir Companies: Curtain Fabric. Poltrona Frau: Bed, Tables, Sofa. Duravit: Sink (Powder Room). Artemide: Sconce. Cancos Tile & Stone: Tile. Desiron: Bench (Billiard Room). Blatt Billiards: Billiard Table. Throughout Designway: Custom Curtains, Pillows. Litelab Corporation: Light Fixtures. Artistic Tile; Coverings Etc: Stone Suppliers. Benjamin Moore & Co.: Paint.