The full renovation of this 3000-square-foot Park Avenue apartment required an elemental fusion of home and gallery. Gabellini Sheppard Associates set out to create an environment that elegantly framed the pleasures of living while providing a stimulating backdrop to the black-and-white master photos on display. A refined palette of muted materials and a clean spatial geometry define a space endowed with three terraces and four sunlit exposures.
Gabellini Sheppard Associates treated the abundant sunlight as an integral architectural resource. Early in the design process, they cleared the existing interior forms in order to study the way sunlight traversed the space throughout the day. The dynamic character and behavior of the light became the framework for sculpting, wrapping, and elucidating the space. The owners’ programmatic requirements led to the division of the apartment into three main spaces united by a continuous floor grid of honed Arria limestone slabs. The luminous central living bridges the two wings—the bedroom area on one side, and on the other, the dining area and study.
Discrete, freestanding volumes designed to interact with the existing perimeter walls articulate the interior spaces. A black volume of ribbon mahogany separates the dining room from the study, and provides storage space. Another ribbon mahogany divider in the master bedroom functions as a floor-to-ceiling headboard while gracefully concealing the wardrobe. The dark surfaces also serve as ideal backdrops for displaying photographic prints by artists including Stieglitz, Moholy-Nagy, Weston, Man Ray, Rodchenko, and Mapplethorpe.
The visual strength of the black volumes is counterbalanced by a series of light volumes containing the bathrooms. Faced in honed white Sivec marble, each bathroom is enclosed within a thin shell of translucent, low-iron-content glass. The glass walls of the master bathroom become instantly opaque or transparent at the flip of a switch, allowing privacy while preserving the lantern-like effect of the illuminated volume.
Spare, carefully-selected furnishings complement the minimalist spatial vocabulary. In the living room, a Saporiti wave sofa, a pair of Yoshio Taniguchi chairs, and a Kjaerholm bench congregate around a stainless steel table designed by Gabellini. Walnut dining chairs by George Nakashima and a library chair by Donald Judd add subtle sculptural gestures to their respective environments.
As is characteristic of the firm’s retail and residential work, the Park Avenue apartment integrates technologically advanced features into a minimal envelope. The large windows, for example, filter out ultra-violet light in order to protect the photographs. The unornamented, floating bed of anigre wood is fitted with hidden pullout consoles that control sound, light, and shades. All climatic and utility mechanisms are scrupulously positioned out of sight; air and heat emanate from concealed vents.
The clients first discovered Gabellini Sheppard Associates through the firm’s distinctive commercial work. Having visited the Jil Sander Paris flagship boutique, for which the firm won four awards, the clients were thrilled by the essential reductivism, attention to detail, and sensitivity to the intrinsic properties of building materials that distinguish the firm’s design sensibility.