January 28, 2015

Architect William T. Georgis' Designs a Gramercy Park Apartment

For an art dealer's Gramercy Park apartment, William Georgis creates a livable context for an ever-changing collection of paintings, sculpture, and furnishings.

by Jorge S. Arango interior designer William T. Georgis Architect photographer Costas Picadas

To the left of the table bearing various bronzes is the eat-in kitchen, where works by John Baldessari hang on the wall


A gallery and a home serve divergent purposes. Art in one is for sale, in the other purely for enjoyment. Furnishings are minimal in the former to maintain attention on the art, while in the latter the balance between them must be comfortably calibrated for living. But when the homeowner is a prominent private art dealer like this client, these distinctions blur.

"Collectors are just voracious," says architect William Georgis, who designed this apartment in John Pawson's reworked annex to the Gramercy Park Hotel. "They cannot stop themselves from buying." So, in this respect, the apartment shares some congruities with a gallery.

Chief among them is fluidity. "The art, objects and furnishings are constantly changing," says Georgis, who worked with design associate Tina Glavan on the project. "The client's family has vast holdings in inventory. We worked with the homeowner to curate these and mix them with custom furniture."

Glavan adds that, like a gallery, "The space was kept neutral to showcase the art with a hanging system that would make it easy to change out pieces and make them appear as if they were floating." Neutral, however, did not mean characterless. Georgis developed a striated resin wall finish resembling combed plaster to distinguish it from gallery-regulation white gypsum board. He paneled this bachelor's library in rich wenge and swathed the master bedroom in chocolate-brown silk...most un-gallery-like.

In the entry hall, the art-three enormous canvases by Jean-Michel Basquiat-functions like very expensive wallpaper, almost completely covering the vertical surfaces with the artist's graffiti-like iconography. Also immediately within view are a custom V'Soske runner and furniture by Jean Royère and Charlotte Perriand, establishing the ambiance appropriate to a residence.

Royère appears elsewhere: chairs and a floor lamp in the living room, a goatskin-covered armchair and another floor lamp in the guest bedroom. More mid-century heavy hitters make cameo appearances, including George Nakashima and Richard Neutra (kitchen table and chairs respectively), Serge Mouille (the light above these) and Jean Prouvé (the library's desk and chair). Custom pieces, such as a soft gray chenille sectional in the living room, balance their sculptural forms with upholstered modern comfort.

In one corner is a Prouvé chair and desk next to a Warhol silkscreen.

The place is chock-full of works by Alexander Calder, George Condo, On Kawara, Richard Prince, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol and others. Yet each feels integral to the spaces in which they appear. And the constant swapping of a Christopher Wool painting for a Twombly or a Prouvé commode for the Perriand, makes this a living, breathing barometer of the homeowner's almost promiscuous curiosity and evolving tastes.

"It's an interesting study in visual appetite," says Georgis. "Over time, it shows us the hand of the collector. A lot of designers think of their work as sacrosanct, flies preserved in amber. That's not interesting to me."