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His Piano, Her Apartment

In Rafael and Diana Viñoly’s new loft, the architect was more than happy to leave almost everything up to his wife, the decorator.

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Rafael and Diana Viñoly
Space 2,300-square- foot loft
Location Tribeca
Lived There Six months

A New Yorker’s residential trajectory is often, inevitably, up. From the flats to the heights, from Hell’s Kitchen to the Upper West Side. When the Viñolys started their search for a new apartment, they also looked up. “After all the children left, we wanted another apartment,” says Diana Viñoly. “Maybe also on the Upper East Side, and maybe a penthouse that would be better than ours.” But after two years, they couldn’t find what they wanted and decided instead to renovate, decamping for another apartment during the process. “I always wanted to live downtown,” she says. “We found this loft and liked it a lot. Which is difficult considering my husband is an architect and I am a decorator. We were planning to live here for a year and a half. After fifteen days, I decided I didn’t want to move again.”

Changing The Space:
They took down one wall but left the rest of the renovation, by architect Hope Dana, in place. One of the first things Diana had installed was curtains, but not the fussy kind. Hers are floor-to-ceiling silk-parachute fabric strung on invisible wires.

Her Mandate:
“Rafael always lets me do whatever I want,” says Diana, who’s designed Lot 61, Bungalow 8, and the new bistro-boîte Bette for nightlife queen Amy Sacco. “He always calls our houses ‘Diana’s house.’ He really is not very interested in decoration. He’s never been interested in everyday objects. As long as there is a place for his piano, that’s the only thing he cares about.”

His Take On It:
“It is a good, happy relationship because I guess it is my chance to be the client, if you know what I mean,” says Rafael, whose latest project, Jazz at Lincoln Center—in which the “lobby has become another performance space”—opens this month. “You have to have a different kind of attention” to decorate, adds the architect, who designed the Tokyo Forum and Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. “It is a much more concentrated type of effort. I have designed objects”—like watches—“but certainly not for me. Then it was associated with an idea of mass production, which is different from the preciousness that you put on an object for yourself. Having a mass audience made it more interesting.”

Her Decorating Principles:
“I’ve done houses that are quite different from mine,” says Diana, “but there is a certain feeling you can find in all those houses. It’s in the flow. I like the idea that as you go from one place to another there is continuity, not a shocking difference. You just continue without feeling like you have to learn the whole language again. One element is color, a very subtle thing people don’t even realize goes from one place to another.” In the Viñolys’ apartment, most of the walls are a subtle silvery gray, except one in saffron, which carries from the dining area into the bedroom.

The Theory Of Three:
“I decided to bring in most of my black furniture, so that I had something that would unify the space. If you are going to do something eclectic, my theory is you have to have at least three of something. If you have a certain period, at least three of that period. For example, I have the Aalto chairs, and these black chairs that are also from the period [1940s and 1950s],” as well as the living-room sofa she designed and had lacquered black. (“It is the size of a twin bed. I was thinking if I have somebody that really doesn’t have somewhere to go, they can sleep there.”) “The great mistake people make,” Diana continues, “is that they put together things they like, and they don’t understand that they should relate to other things. It is very uncomfortable visually. If you have three of something, it gives you a kind of peacefulness.”


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