Moving On Down
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 9/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
What Park Avenue family would aspire to life in a Midtown high-rise? Tom Puls and Donna Ricco, the husband-wife team behind her namesake women's fashion label, used to live with their three children in a stately prewar co-op. Then, with only one kid out of the nest, the couple decided to downsize a little early—seduced by the concept of a deluxe condo in the sky. "Growing up in Wisconsin," Puls says, "I'd seen pictures."
The change meant squeezing into 2,100 square feet, plus balconies, on the 23rd floor of a Der Scutt Architects tower opposite the United Nations. Originally two units, the place had been consolidated by former owners but never completely reconsidered. Puls and Ricco hired RB/Architect principal Rafael Berkowitz for the job after seeing him on television, and he brought in Robert Kaner Interior Design.
For the "Case Study feeling" Puls requested, the first order of business was to demolish nonessential walls. When the existing parquet then proved unsuitable, the team substituted a similar one at a slightly larger size. The oak is stained a custom shade that pulls back a touch from ebonized, in the direction of espresso.
To camouflage a central concrete structural column and simultaneously define the public space, Berkowitz came up with a divider clad in furniture-grade cerused oak "without that 'raw' quality," he explains. The partition serves as storage while separating the snug den and study from the living and dining areas, which skew cooler and harder in palette.
Blue accents in the living area acknowledge a frankly spectacular view of the U.N.'s glass facade. Most variegated is a rug based on an abstract painting by William Betts, brother of Time Style & Design editor Kate; Betts himself helped select the wool yarns. "It would have been really easy to do an approximate version, but this one matches very faithfully," Kaner reports.
To fine-tune the apparent dimensions of the master bedroom, the team eliminated a wall of closets in favor of a built-in credenza that restores a modicum of width to the narrow space. That change did away with the need for a facing wall of mirrors, now replaced by lightly polished Venetian plaster, applied to burlap for enhanced texture.
The boys' suite is even more unusual. Three amicable brothers, one away at boarding school, share a tiny "bunkhouse" with beds by Berkowitz. The attached lounge—a place for homework, watching movies, and parties—boasts significantly more space. Lest anyone wonder what trouble a trio of teenagers could cook up at home, here's Puls's say in the matter: "You can walk into the lounge without feeling you're intruding."
The family's old apartment had a rarely used dining room and an eat-in kitchen, but here there's only one place for sit-down meals. Above the dining area's resin-topped table and vintage white Eero Saarinen chairs, a canopy veneered in an eco-friendly wood composite houses recessed halogen spotlights—their trims in a custom-painted coffee color, natch. Great debate ensued about how to supplement the downlights: several pendants or just one? It was Puls who finally suggested a pair of George Nelson's Pear lanterns and negotiated their placement with Kaner. As the boys would say, rolling their eyes, "Only Dad and Bob would argue about ½ inch."