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Papaya King

A tiny Trump box gets the tropical treatment -- an invigorating coat of orange.

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Interior designer Matthew White knew there was a simple way to ease the Miami-New York transition for his old friend Jorge Vargas: Just add orange. White drenched Vargas's 300-square-foot Trump Place rental a Tropicana hue, earning it the nickname "the Papaya." "People are intimidated by strong color in small spaces," White says. "But you only have one shot to say something. If you're going to paint it white, you've given up your shot." Vargas, the makeup supervisor of Broadway's Aida, got the apartment painted between shows, while Los Angeles-based White hit the local fleas, searching for furniture with Pop Art flavor to complement the cartoon color. He struck gold with a Saarinen-esque but unpedigreed ball chair, lining the interior in chic lime velvet. A notions shop provided strings of iridescent beads, which White cut into a Ziegfeld-worthy window curtain. Xeroxes of classical columns gave the brand-new apartment some architectural detail. Vargas asked for only one thing: "I told Matthew I need a touch of animal somewhere." White picked a synthetic white tiger rug -- "very Siegfried & Roy" -- soft enough for an afternoon nap. "As you walk up to his building when everyone's lights are on, you can see this glowing orange room," says White, who now wishes his own Manhattan pied-à-terre was a little more à l'orange. "I keep thinking, The poor neighbors -- they don't know what they're missing." Far left: White custom-designed the sofa -- which pulls out to serve as Vargas's bed -- to fit the mirror's curve. "Because the space is so small, a daybed would take up too much room," White says. "I wanted him to be able to have friends over for a drink." Artist Clare Graham, another old friend of White's, fashioned the mirror out of 17,000 pop-tops strung together with wire; the whole surface ripples in the breeze like a metallic pelt. Knock-off swing-arm lamps anchor two columns -- cribbed from an eighteenth-century engraving and Xeroxed to a gargantuan scale -- to the wall. "These make the ceiling look taller," White says. He bought synthetic white tiger off the bolt and had it bordered in a strip of flame-colored carpet.


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