Jane Margolies | November 01, 2011
Always courageous with color, Ghislaine Viñas has revved up mismatched dining chairs with chartreuse vinyl and swathed a living room's walls in red suede. But in a New York triplex for a father and three young sons, she has bravely gone where even she has never ventured before. The color scheme developed by Ghislaine Viñas Interior Design embraces eyebrow-raising doses of red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. "It's intentionally a bit wrong," she explains. "It pumps some energy into the space." Not that the 5,600-square-foot apartment didn't have a lot going for it from the start. It's one of two remarkable residences in a 19th-century warehouse transformed beyond recognition by the real-estate developer DDG Partners—the triplex being the lower unit. Its ground level encompasses the living and dining areas and the kitchen. The basement contains a den, a playroom, a gym, and guest quarters. On the second story are family bedrooms and a home office.
Because natural light was limited on the bottom two levels, DDG's cofounding partner and head of design and construction, Peter Guthrie, and lead project architect, Jeshua Paone, opened up the north-facing rear of the apartment with wall-towall windows to capture sunshine bouncing off a neighboring building. Hugging this window wall without obstructing it is a striking staircase, a single steel stringer with open risers and cantilevered treads. The openness is both architecturally exciting and kid-friendly, with plenty of room for restless boys to roam-and to run and jump and bounce balls. Scooters are possible, too, on the rift-sawn white-oak floors.
Still, the triplex's glass expanses and yawning spaces presented a challenge for Viñas. The first time she walked in, she thought, How am I going to make this homey? Her answer turned out to be color-blocking, a pop art ploy that's been showing up in fashion lately.
Sweeping around the home office, a thick band of tangerine orange saturates everything in its way: Lower walls, a sliver of a tackboard, and a radiator cover are all painted orange, while the lower segment of the curtains is orange wool. She took a similar approach in the master bedroom, where the wainscoting, upholstered headboard, and bedside tables are enveloped in Yves Klein blue, a shade she had never appreciated until she saw it in a friend's sweater.
In the living area, where the ceiling reaches almost 13 feet, she made part of the sofa and the bookcase behind the exact same turquoise, so they read as a single element with the necessary scale. Nearby, two armchairs from the owner's previous apartment are jolted to life by fluorescent-red upholstery. Underfoot is a shag rug in emerald green, another color she hadn't used before. "I was trying to get outside my comfort zone," she says.
Essential to this daring deployment of color is a white backdrop, as she's quick to point out. Walls are painted a crisp white, new plasterboard and old warehouse brick alike. "As much as I love color," she admits, "I love white more." She's also partial to black-and-white, a high-contrast combo seen in the graphic hits that punctuate the apartment.
The black outlines on the white doubleheight wall rising from the playroom through the dining area resemble a cartoon version of stacked stones. (She first doodled the design on paper, then had decorative painters blow up the drawing with a projector and trace the result.) At the entry and in the hallway upstairs, intersecting lines are strewn across the walls, like giant pickup sticks, adding dynamism to what could have been dead space. In the room shared by the three boys, she unfurled black-and-white stripes in the form of curtains, throws, and carpet.
Punch also comes from tongue-in-cheek details. In the boys' room, wainscoting looks like a whitewashed fence right out of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer—a humorous reference to a more rustic life that, she says, "gives these city boys something they don't have." Another "country" touch is the guest suite's barn-style sliding door painted egg-yolk yellow.
Aside from that yellow door, the serene skylit suite stands out for its absence of color. Two medieval-looking vaults original to the building-and initially used for coal storage-became an extraordinary shower room and a water closet. Between the bathing and sleeping areas, exposed columns remain as is. "I love the simplicity of that suite," Viñas says. "The concrete columns, the texture of the bricks." She evidently knows not only when to splash out with the whole rainbow but also when to hold back.
van é broussard; morgan pederson; anne brown ; megan evans; mauricio zermeño bessonart: ghislaine viñas interior design. kit middleton architect: architect of record. richard j. shaver architectural lighting: lighting consultant. viñas design : graphics consultant. amanda cox landscape design : landscaping consultant. robert silman associates: structural engineer. plus group consulting engineers: mep. solid solutions group : woodwork. prestige upholstery: upholstery workshop. madeleine mendonca: drapery workshop. 3 fingers painting: decorative painter.