All That Jazz
Two adults, four children, a passion for pink—Ghislaine Viñas packed the works into a fun-friendly New York loft
Annie Block -- Interior Design, 1/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Ghislaine Viñas had never heard that one before. Luckily, it was a demand that meshed with her own love affair with color: Her latest client, jazz-dance teacher Hanne Larsen, insisted on a hot-pink kitchen for the loft that she and her banker husband, Angus Dobbie—recent transplants from Sydney, Australia—had just purchased in New York. Larsen is absolutely mad for hot pink. She wears it on her feet, in Chuck Taylor high-tops, and in her hair, in shocks running through her dark brown bob. "Pink makes the concrete, stainless steel, and glass in the kitchen look less serious," she explains. "There's a fun female energy."
The couple met Viñas through their children, three sons and a daughter aged 5 months to 7 years—the two oldest and Viñas's two daughters attend the same elementary school. "We were friends for a year before they commissioned me, which was fortunate in that I really got to know them, their lifestyle, their taste," the designer says. In addition to a fascination with fuchsia, that taste skews toward "simplicity, natural beauty, and functionality," Larsen says. Her father, born in Denmark, filled her Australian childhood home with all things Danish. When she and her husband moved to New York, they bought several Hans Wegner pieces. His style would permeate the loft, from finishes to furnishings to hardware.
Viñas completely gutted the space, 2,300 square feet on the eighth floor of a converted 1897 printing plant. "The ceiling had holes and stains, and the layout was entirely makeshift," she recalls. "We kept nothing but the kitchen sink." Out went the dropped ceiling, shabby oak floor, and cobbled-together layout. In came a newly plastered ceiling vaults, slim strips of bamboo flooring, up-to-date HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems, casement windows, and an intelligent, compact plan to encourage both entertaining and family time.
Larsen is the type of person who, after a school function or an afternoon at the playground, says, "Let's all go over to my house." So Viñas devised an open living-dining area and kitchen that easily host an impromptu get-together. At mealtimes, family and guests seat themselves in curvaceous Wegner chairs at a long oak table or in Arne Jacobsen bar stools along the kitchen island's concrete counter. The stools' bentwood seats are a spirited pink, as is the kitchen's backsplash of back-painted glass. To watch a movie, the whole gang can gather on the living area's L-shape sectional—its wool upholstery, of course, magenta—or recline in Wegner lounge chairs with seats like upturned potato chips. "The chairs were a present from Angus for my first Christmas here. Danish design is prohibitively expensive in Australia," Larsen notes.
If the two of them want some adult time, a pocket door painted hot pink closes off the loft's public areas from private spaces including the playroom. Here, the palette changes to white-and-blue, via the snowy plastic laminate on cabinetry and the saturated cerulean of the rug and an accent wall. The wall is partly obscured behind a loft that Viñas built to give the kids their "fort," but blue paint peeks through the loft's large round ventilation holes. Bedtime for the kids is every bit as playful. Blue, this time more of a cornflower, appears in the bedroom of the 7-year-old, who chose a happy, floral Marimekko window shade to match.
Her baby brother sleeps in a crib safely tucked under her loft bed. Eventually, he'll graduate to the boys' room and what Viñas calls its "sleeping pods," three stacked built-in bunks that save on space. Since the boys adore pirates, she recruited her husband's graphics firm, Viñas Design, to create a G-rated skull-and-crossbones mural kitty-corner from the beds. In both of the children's rooms, she also used white plastic laminate. "It's durable, and these rooms get serious abuse," she points out. On the beds' rounded edges, she left the laminate off and exposed the apple plywood beneath—a nod to Danish modern.
The master suite is a "peaceful haven in a life of chaos!" Larsen exclaims. In the bedroom, the walls, the window shade, and an abstract painting maintain serene earthy tones, while spare furnishings keep clutter at bay. The bathroom is awash in spearmint-green ceramic tile, while tub, sink, and vanity top are pure white Corian. Larsen was very particular about the fittings: streamlined brushed stainless by Jacobsen.
It's in the kids' bathroom that the proverbial kitchen sink shows up. Viñas had the 90-year-old cast-iron relic re-enameled white on the inside and painted kelly green on the outside, not a trace of pink in sight.