March 9, 2015

Art Collectors Learn the Art of the Mix in a West Village High-Rise

Designer Paul Siskin and architect Joan Chan play eclectic antique furnishings against a cool modern envelope

by Jorge S. Arango interior designer Siskin Valls Interior Design photographer Joshua McHugh architecture Siskin Valls Interior Design


Developers have minds of their own. So discovered architect Joan Chan and designer Paul Siskin when their clients purchased two contiguous units in a West Village high-rise before it was actually built. Knowing that the couple that hired them-a former dancer and her husband-wanted what the wife calls "loft luxury" rather than the boutique condo being erected, they begged the developer to leave the spaces raw. He wouldn't budge, save for one concession: he eliminated the wall between the larger apartment and the one-bedroom unit.

So the team had to start by stripping interior detail. To make things more industrial, they replaced a sheetrock ceiling with a material that simulated poured concrete, and Chan, with associate architect Jose Pimentel, used steel, she says, "like a ribbon" throughout the interior envelope. That meant deploying the metal on built-in shelving, window seats, and cornices. "We also took down walls to open things up," she adds. Where more delineated spaces were desired, steel-framed channel glass doors created separation without blocking light. The resulting 3,760 square feet now accommodates three bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths and two kitchens (one servicing a family room in the one-bedroom unit).

The clients are also art collectors, so contemporary works by David Storey, Neo Rauch, McDermott & McGough and others further ramped up the downtown modern feel. Yet just because an industrial chic aesthetic drove the interior architecture didn't mean furnishings would follow suit. "I'm not interested in one style or period," observes Siskin. "I take from everything." So he appointed rooms with a salmagundi of pieces ranging in epoch and origin from 18th-century Swedish (the dining room chairs) to contemporary American (the BDDW dining room table), with many stops in between: a pair of 19th-century Empire chairs by a window, a 1990s daybed by Franck Evennou and an Art Moderne table by Rene Drouet and a 1950s Murano glass chandelier. And, explains Siskin, "As beautiful as old seating is, it's not comfortable." So there are plenty of custom-upholstered sofas and chairs.

These juxtapositions create a play, explains the wife, "between the landscape outside and the landscape inside, between antique and modern, industrial materials and luxurious materials." It's precisely that mix that ensures the apartment sidesteps pretension, despite the many fine pieces and artworks on display. "There's nothing intimidating about the house,"concludes Siskin.