When Hans Dorsinville purchased his Chelsea apartment in 2010, initially, there wasn’t a lot to like. The 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom unit is in a white-brick sixties building, and the low-ceilinged space hadn’t been touched in 50 years—even the original kitchen cabinets, singed by a fire, were still in place.
But it wasn’t the first time Dorsinville, a partner and executive vice-president at the creative agency Laird + Partners, had bought a wreck. His previous apartment, a 520-square-foot studio in the same building, had been in similar shape until he hired architects Brian Messana and Toby O’Rorke to transform it into a case study in white-walled minimalism.
For his new home, Dorsinville called on the same design team, though he requested a dramatically different look. “I’d had a white apartment, which I found aggressive,” he says. “This time, I wanted a masculine, sexy, intimate, and dark but not heavy apartment,” with a Halston-inspired seventies feel. To get there, Messana O’Rorke gutted the space, demolishing all interior walls, and started rebuilding from scratch. They replaced the orangey parquet floor with reclaimed oak wood in a chevron pattern. They opened up the kitchen and added heavily veined, Kenya black stone countertops. And they oriented the new layout around three floor-to-ceiling, black-lacquer boxes, each with its own purpose: an enviable walk-in closet and dressing room, a slide-out bar, and extra storage space.
“It’s a tight apartment, not a loft where you can grow outward,” says O’Rorke. “All of these boxes are fully packed with function.” He notes that a key to sanity when living in New York City is the ability to hide and manage clutter. An open floor plan can sometimes feel severe; Messana sees the boxes as creating a cocooning effect. “You always sense there’s something beyond,” Messana says. “As you walk through, it keeps unfolding and expanding.”
For Dorsinville, that procession of spaces, finished in smoked glass, dark woods, brass hardware, and what O’Rorke calls a “hierarchy of grays” strikes all the right notes. “I wanted comfort and I wanted soul,” says Dorsinville. “Most people who come here find it quite soothing and usually want to stay.”