A family finds ample room for fun in a New York apartment by Betty Wasserman
Stephen Wallis -- Interior Design, 10/1/2011 12:21:00 PM
When Neeraj Bewtra left his job as a New York bond trader in 2008, he was burned out and looking to take some time off, a six-month sabbatical perhaps. Years later, he still hasn't made it back to Wall Street-and happily so, thanks to 4-year-old twin boys, a variety of philanthropic activities, and a renovation. He and his ob-gyn wife, Barbara, found their dream apartment a block north of Washington Square Park, overlooking a row of Victorian carriage houses. The 1891 industrial building is known to Christian Scientists for a chapel on the ground level and to modernism buffs for a 1967 redesign by Victor Christ-Janer and Associates, which replaced the Romanesque revival facade with austere, nearly windowless red brick. A 2008 residential conversion of the upper five levels removed the brick and created the Bewtras' floor-through loft.
The couple had already worked with James Bartholomew Architect to build a weekend house, and the firm returned to make small adjustments to the 4,600-square-foot apartment's four-bedroom, five-bath layout. Betty Wasserman Art & Interiors provided furnishings "on the modern side but not ultramodern," Barbara says. The results are both sophisticated and subtle- this is an apartment that does double duty. On the one hand, the loft is a showcase: 11-foot ceiling, vast windows, sprawling entertaining space outfitted with prize furniture and art. But this is also very conspicuously a comfortable family home, kid-friendly and pet-friendly.
Betty Wasserman set the tone in the entry, where a roguish, splattery abstract painting accompanies a console and bench by one of her favorite collaborators, a will-make-anything artisan whose handiwork can be found all over the loft. On the floor, a plum-accented round shag rug beckons the Bewtras' gregarious wheaten terrier. Walls are surfaced in Venetian plaster, a durable material that makes it easy to remove, say, the marks of grubby hands or skittering balls-a plus when the long hallway connecting the entry to the bedrooms is the twins' indoor soccer field.
As a mother herself, Wasserman is attuned to the practical considerations of living with children. "Betty could really think about what the kids will need, and she genuinely knows that this fabric is much more durable than that fabric, because she's had chocolate milk spilled on it before," Barbara says. For the twins' room, Wasserman chose a boldly colored striped rug and bedding and commissioned a mural showing cartoonlike planes and helicopters. However, the twins' favorite spot turns out to be their parents' enormous glassed-in shower. "They think it's a water park," Bewtra says. The runner-up is probably the stylish playroom. When no guests are sleeping on the crimson sectional, which transforms into a queen-size bed, it's a cozy TV-watching spot or, he adds, "an excellent trampoline." In addition, the round upholstered ottoman comes apart into pieces that the twins use as rocking horses on the cushy tufted wool rug.
The vibe in the rest of the apartment is relatively subdued, the palette mostly soft blues and grays and earthy browns with pale green accents. Wasserman focused on the interplay between pattern and texture, industrial and organic. "I like a feel that's a little imperfect," she says. "And I like to use wood-old beams, end grains-as if it were fabric." Public space in the front of the apartment centers on the dining area. (Long walnut table for 12, view of the Empire State Building.) In the adjacent living area, by the fireplace set into a surround of blackened steel, two chairs covered in a playful rabbit pattern flank a brawny cocktail table built from salvaged beech beams. Similar beams yielded the blocks that make up the screen built into the wide doorway between the living-dining area and the den, a more grownup counterpart to the playroom. While each has a TV, the den also offers a 1960's magazine table by Jens Risom and a bar cart inspired by a '50's Vladimir Kagan design.
There's art in virtually every room, mostly abstract and frequently minimalist. Three muscular bronzes include a futurist nest on the cocktail table. Propped on the mantel, a pair of gunshot "paintings" were made by firing bullets into aluminum sheets. And the real conversation piece was commissioned from Gary Gissler, who created a text "portrait" of the couple by arranging key words compiled from a series of interviews; the more important the word, the larger Gissler wrote it on the white background. Hung prominently in the dining area, the composition is revealing-almost too much so for Bewtra. "I'll be honest," he says. "When I first saw it, I thought, Why did we do this? " But he and his wife are growing used to it. So what are the most important words? Though happiness is large, the very largest, naturally, are the twins' first names.
Photography by Eric Laignel
lauren hunter: betty wasserma n art & interiors. martin springer: general contractor.
HEPTAGON CREATIONS: CUSTOM SCREEN, CREDENZA, TRAY (DEN); CUSTOM TABLES (DINING, LIVING AREAS); CUSTOM CONSOLE, BENCH (ENTRY); CUSTOM BED (MASTER BEDROOM); CUSTOM BENCH, SHOWER FLOOR, VANITY (BATHROOM).
BOCCI: PENDANT FIXTURES (DINING AREA).
MOORE & GILES: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY.
ROMO: CURTAIN FABRIC (DINING, LIVING AREAS).
ALTURA FURNITURE THROUGH DENNIS MILLER ASSOCIATES: CHAIRS (DINING AREA, PLAYROOM).
BDDW: STOOLS (KITCHEN); MIRROR (ENTRY).
HELENBILT: PENDANT FIXTURES (KITCHEN, MASTER BEDROOM).
ROOM: SOFA (LIVING AREA).
EDELMAN LEATHER: PILLOW UPHOLSTERY.
HOLLY HUNT: CHAIRS (LIVING AREA); OTTOMAN UPHOLSTERY (DEN); CHAIR FABRIC (TWINS' ROOM).
PIERRE FREY: SOFA FABRIC (LIVING AREA, PLAYROOM); CHAIR FABRIC (PLAYROOM); WINDOW SHADE FABRIC (PLAYROOM, TWINS' ROOM).
DONGHIA: CHAIR FABRIC (LIVING AREA); CURTAIN FABRIC (MASTER BEDROOM).
COWTAN & TOUT: PILLOW FABRIC (LIVING AREA); HEADBOARD, DAYBED FABRIC (MASTER BEDROOM).
DAB: CHANDELIER (ENTRY).
DEDAR THROUGH JERRY PAIR: CHAIR FABRIC (DEN).
DOREEN INTERIORS: CUSTOM CHAIRS, OTTOMAN (DEN), CUSTOM SOFA, OTTOMAN (PLAYROOM).
EAZYBEAN: BEANBAG (PLAYROOM).
MERIDA MERIDIAN: RUG.
DAVID TRUBRIDGE: PENDANT FIXTURE.
RALPH PUCCI INTERNATIONAL: LAMP (PLAYROOM); DAYBED (MASTER BEDROOM).
BOFFI: FAN (MASTER BEDROOM).
LIGHTEXTURE: TABLE LAMPS.
WETSTYLE: TUB (BATHROOM).
BELLACOR: BEDS (TWINS' ROOM).
BLU DOT: NIGHTSTAND.
MOOOI: PENDANT FIXTURE.
HÄFELE: SINK FITTINGS, DRAWER PULLS (BATHROOM).
JOHN WIGMORE: SCONCES.
STONE SOURCE: TILE.