Fred A. Bernstein -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
As the director of some very funny TV commercials for FedEx and Nike, Hank Perlman knows that timing is everything. And that's why he enlisted AJS Designs three years before buying his first apartment. He asked principal Abigail Shachat—who'd designed the office of his production company, Hungry Man—to evaluate potential purchases and make sure the place he bought could be transformed into the home he wanted. He'd been living in rentals with tiny kitchens and baths for most of his adult life, he explained, so now he was ready for "killer."
Perlman and Shachat settled on the West Village, specifically what he describes as a "typical loft, long and narrow with all the windows at one end." A wall down the middle only made things worse, separating public spaces from bedrooms and creating a bowling-alley effect.
Shachat kept the basic layout but replaced the center wall with a hallway lined with bookshelves and a desk, turning what had been an impenetrable barrier into a layered transition. On one side, wide white-painted sliding doors enclose the sleeping quarters; on the other, a dramatic walnut-framed slider of perforated stainless steel recalls the benday dots of a Roy Lichtenstein painting.
Shachat gave the living area's bland fireplace a stronger presence by deepening the firebox and surrounding it with a fieldstone facing that "looks like a dry-set," she explains. The increased depth of the wall above the mantel also allowed for an inset TV and speakers—Perlman does love his AV equipment.
Shachat loves durability, a quality that Perlman questioned when she suggested tiling the powder room's walls in cork. But as she told him, "It's a flooring material, and it's completely sealed." Now, Perlman says, "The cork not only looks great, but it even smells good." Likewise, instead of using paint for focal walls in the kitchen and foyer, Shachat chose integrally tinted plaster in dark blue, Perlman's favorite. "Scratch it," she says, "and you still have blue."
Not all problems get resolved that easily. Ash floorboards, improperly installed, began lifting up before Perlman moved in, and a new contractor suggested screwing them to the subfloor. But exposed fasteners were hardly the detailing Shachat was going for, so she had pegs made from ash as well as walnut and oak, woods already used in the apartment.
Inserted over the screws as well as in other purely decorative locations, the pegs form arrangements that suggest constellations. "I don't think anyone else has a floor like this," Perlman says, praising Shachat's "incredibly creative ability to overcome setbacks."
As the apartment neared completion, timing came into play again. Perlman began dating Heather Fukumoto, a graphic designer, and invited her to move in. As luck would have it, her mother runs an interiors firm called Jackie Terrell Design, and she helped choose the couple's furniture.
Not long after the last lamp shade was in place, Perlman proposed, and Fukumoto accepted. Perlman credits design in part. "The apartment," he says, "worked its magic."