We knew from the very start that it wasn’t going to work for us,” says Chuck Close of the brand-new far West Village penthouse he and his wife, Leslie, bought in fall 2003. They’d been living on the Upper West Side, but inconveniences like the lack of a garage had become annoyances. “I was always parking, because we use the car so much,” says Leslie. “I would drop Chuck off at two in the morning after an evening out, and then I would be schlepping around. I’m getting a little old for that!” That the new building had a garage with a ramp and ready access to the elevator, plus breathtaking river views, clinched the deal.
Everything else had to go, though: The Closes didn’t like the commercial finishes, there wasn’t enough room in the kitchen for Chuck’s wheelchair, and the bathroom was a disaster. “We asked the builders if we could not have them build out our apartment,” Chuck says. “At first, they thought they could try. Then they were going to charge us not to do this and not to do that. It was phenomenal. Thirteen thousand dollars not to put a bathroom in!” In the end, the original builders completed the apartment down to the appliances in the kitchen and the fixtures in the bathroom. Then MADE, the Closes’ architects, ripped it all out. “The glue was fresh on the countertops as they were pulled out,” says Oliver Freundlich, one of MADE’s partners.
Deconstruction was phase one. Phase two included installing a full-scale Masonite mock-up of the kitchen. “We came in one day, and they had this whole fake kitchen laid out,” says Leslie. Final construction took about nine months. But it was, say the Closes, flawless. “When I roll through the apartment, if there is something that bothers me, that is all I can see,” says Chuck. “This is a situation in which they did it better than we expected.”