In Living Color pix
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
With its technicolor walls and ersatz trees, the Beijing apartment that Matali Crasset designed last fall would seem to qualify as a bona fide house of the future. It is, after all, part of an experimental project that called for 10 international designers to dream up as many residences in conjunction with the Chinese capital's First Architectural Biennial 2004. Crasset didn't try to predict any new modes of living, however. Instead, she gave vibrant form to the possibilities of the present.
Joining other contributions by the likes of designer Denis Santachiara and architect Bernard Tschumi, all of which are for sale, Crasset's apartment is on the seventh floor of a 31-story tower in Phoenix City, an upscale commercial and residential complex. As a counterpoint to the hubbub outside, the designer covered the floors of the 2,700-square-foot residence in calming white resin. She organized it around a central, rectangular core that's wrapped in translucent acid-green glass and edged by a row of artificial trees constructed from birch rods. Blue ceilings evoke the sky. "It's like finding a refuge in nature," says Crasset, principal of her eponymous Paris-based industrial-design firm.
Of course, the cartoonlike trees and electric colors hardly look natural. Crasset, a Philippe Starck protégé whose previous works include the Hi hotel in Nice, France, as well as furniture and objects for Artemide, uses such effects to heighten awareness, encouraging viewers to see the familiar through childlike eyes. It's this element of fantasy, or the interaction between the inner and outer worlds, that finds expression throughout the space. The core, for example, houses a lime-green-painted room designed for contemplation. Its desk, designed by Crasset, and matching credenza incorporate shelves that hold few books "so you can concentrate more," she says. This, along with the kitchen and bathroom, form the introverted heart of the apartment.
Surrounding the core is the master and child's bedrooms, living and dining areas, kitchen, and second bathroom. Each has a focal design element that elaborates on the ritual associated with the area. For example, the only furniture in the monochromatic dining area are a custom table and chairs in blue lacquered wood with an attached tiered shelf that can keep utensils and condiments close at hand. The centerpiece of the master bedroom, painted a bubble-gum pink, is Crasset's custom unit of two attached circular forms in rose and fuchsia lacquered wood. One form is oriented horizontally as a platform for the bed, the other vertically for a one-person seating module. Together, they are "ideal for a couple," Crasset says. "One can sleep, the other can read." The nearby child's room has a system of pale-blue melamine fixtures along its perimeter that provides storage and a bed platform; with all the furnishings along the walls, there's more floor space to play on.
An entire corner of the living area is padded with cotton-covered foam cushions to create what Crasset calls a "nest." Its violet-to-fuchsia coloration draws eyes from the ceiling toward the floor, encouraging ground-level seating, an Asian custom. The sofa, upholstered in raspberry-colored synthetic leather, has contours that shift from upright to reclined. "It's about bipolarity," Crasset explains of the project. And seeing things from a different perspective.