In Spider-Man 2, impoverished superhero Peter Parker’s starter apartment is in a New York tenement so decrepit it looks like a parody. But the building—crumbling plaster and all—really does exist, on Chrystie Street. And it houses a remarkable jewel box of a studio that’s a testament to what a little ingenuity, some pedigree furniture, and careful street scavenging can do in a space that’s probably smaller than Tobey Maguire’s closet.
Mark Ciolli, who worked for years in the fashion industry before starting his own interior-design business, has lived here since 1992. When he found the apartment, it pretty much resembled its film-set counterpart: warped floorboards over 65-year-old subflooring, walls made from plaster over furring strips, a three-foot room divider that made no sense at all. He sleuthed out local carpenters and artisans for the necessary renovations (and did more than a few himself, since he’s remarkably handy). Behind the luxurious pleated fabric on the walls surrounding the fireplace is a decaying brick wall, and the nonworking fireplace is filled with chunky crystalline logs and surrounded by a plaster-and-mirror mantle set in a sleek brushed-steel wall. As for the furniture, it’s an artful blend of pedigrees (Maison Jansen side tables, Marco Zanuso armchairs) and mutts (a scavenged gold mirror hangs above a couch from Housing Works).
“It’s actually more important for small spaces to have better pieces,” Ciolli says. “You may have less space, but you can fill it with dynamic items. And don’t be afraid to leave empty floor space. That is the most decadent thing in New York City.”
(1.) The armchairs by the fireplace came from the Paris flea market; they’re by Marco Zanuso, an Italian designer of the fifties. (2.) The panel mirror between the windows is another Paris flea-market find. (3.) The square slipper chairs are Billy Baldwin by Henry Urban. (4.) The coffee table is by Gilbert Rohde, and the carpets are from Stark. (5.) The cove-lit ceiling was created by adding a dropped panel and covering it with Maya Romanoff wallpaper. (6.) The gold-mirror frame was on the street. Ciolli had a mercury-glass pane cut for it, then attached a mid-century clock to its center. (7.) The sofa came from Housing Works; the side tables are Maison Jansen.
The Murphy bed up . . .
(1.) The Venetian folding screen came from a tag sale at William Doyle twenty years ago; Ciolli got it for $50. (2.) The side table by the bed was found by Ciolli, who added small medallions from the 26th Street flea market.
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(3.) The headboard and skirt were done by Versailles Drapery & Upholstery. The painting above the bed is a flea-market find and was framed by House of Heydenryk. (4.) The Murphy bed creates flexibility, so Ciolli can “make a dance floor or a cocktail area. I love having people over.”
(1.) The painted-resin-and-mirror mantle was custom-made by Joseph Biunno after a stucco, granite, and wood Serge Roche console circa 1936.
(2.) The ice-blue fabric on the walls is a silk douppioni that Ciolli’s sister sent him.
(3.) The brushed-steel wall behind the fireplace was made by David Law at General Sheet Metal Works.
(4.) The fire screen was found in Paris; the crystalline logs are from Andrew W. Racquet Interior Design.