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Celebrity hatmaker Rod Keenan works for people who own actual fortresses (Brad Pitt, Prince, Alicia Keys, Elvis Costello, Steven Tyler), so it makes a certain sense that he resides in a building in Harlem called the Castle. He bought the 1887 George B. Pelham-designed building, seen here in a state of near ruin, in 1998 and spent the next year and a half heroically bringing its limestone façade and crenellated tower back to life. He recently gave me a walk-through.

Photo: Courtesy of Rod Keenan

Entering the foyer you’re met by a sparkling chandelier from Home Depot and a ceiling embellished with Swarovski crystals.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The building’s previous owner lost financing mid-renovation, so Rod bought it in a gutted state. Here the parlor floor before Rod and his partner Philip Hewat-Jaboor went to work on it, and after. The couch was custom-made by Classic Sofa, the armchair is Biedermeier 1830, and the oval églomisé-topped coffee table was found on the street. The large plates flanking the French doors are nineteenth-century Italian and depict scenes from Greek vases.

Photo: Courtesy of Rod Keenan (Left); Wendy Goodman (Right)

A Murano-glass chandelier in the parlor lights up a stairwell leading down to Rod’s basement studio and showroom, where the Parsons and F.I.T. grad makes all of his hats.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The top-floor duplex was a perfect mess until menswear journalist Cator Sparks became a tenant in 2002. He is now working on a book about his life in the Castle. The bedroom on the right is filled with furniture from his family home in Atlanta. Cator calls it his “Bludoir”; the particular blue tone was inspired by a trip to Catherine the Great’s palace in St. Petersburg.

Photo: Courtesy of Rod Keenan (Left); Wendy Goodman (Right)

The gorgeously lit sitting area of Cator’s Bludoir is decorated with flea-market finds and family portraits.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Cator’s office and guest room was inspired by Diana Vreeland’s red “Garden in Hell” apartment, designed by Billy Baldwin. His mother knit the starburst afghan on the bed.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The stairwell leading to Rod’s basement studio is a sort of hatter’s Hall of Fame.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The basement studio before and after Rod’s renovation.

Photo: Courtesy of Rod Keenan (Left); Wendy Goodman (Right)

A bit of fuchsia brightens up the sun-deprived workspace.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Of all the pieces in Rod’s collection, this hat mold—from Freddie Fox, onetime milliner to Britain’s Queen Mother—might be the pièce de résistance.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: Wendy Goodman
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