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Design Scientist

Even retail guru Murray Moss—who uses his apartment as product lab—has learned to embrace a little tackiness.

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Murray Moss and Franklin Getchell
Space 2,800-square-foot loft
Location Murray Hill
Lived There Seventeen years

If there were a seamless transition between your work and your home, it would be freakish,” says Murray Moss, the man who reintroduced New York to high-end design. There are similarities between Moss’s Soho store and his home, to be sure—the pale-gray floor, the white plaster walls—but there are no display cases here. “The store to me is very heightened and theatrical. I am pitching someone’s else idea, and I have five seconds to communicate it, so I have to do it in a cartoonish way. It’s a cartoon version of a natural-history museum.” The apartment is much less exclamatory. Moss and his partner, Franklin Getchell, had architects Smith-Miller + Hawkinson design a series of planes that reveal the loft’s progressively intimate spaces. A wooden wall separates the kitchen from the living room, and the bedroom and twin bathrooms are in back. They’ve loved the place, but after seventeen years, Moss and Getchell are soon to move on to Olympic Tower, a doorman building. (“I want my new apartment to have some services,” says Moss, like “an attended elevator.”) But first, a tour of this one.

Home As Lab:
What most differentiates the apartment from the Moss mother ship are the items with patina—like a 1949 Gio Ponti wall unit. Moss is very taken with postwar Italian work. “It was an optimistic moment. Design became the official export of Italy, a national idea of how to rebuild. It was a solution rather than decoration.

“Most of the things here I don’t sell in the store,” he continues. But the apartment still serves as a kind of testing ground. “On a rotating basis, I do take everything home. I’ll look at it with music on, in my socks. I’ll put other things with it. I’ve lost the luxury to do that at the store. I’ll put a stainless-steel bowl next to shiny plastic. That helps me identify what to communicate first about the object in the store.”

Maintaining Order:
His latest juxtaposition is a student drawing by Le Corbusier above a chest of drawers by Dutch design firm Droog—one a gridded arrangement of rooms, the other chaos controlled by a strap. “That pleases me. They are two different ways of achieving orderliness.”

Fights Over Taste:
“I’m a bully, mostly,” says Moss. “Franklin is less obsessed.” Getchell, a former TV producer who joined Moss’s business six years ago, loves books. Books for reading, which are somewhat less photogenic than Moss’s shelves of art, design, architecture, and vintage Czech volumes. “He drives me crazy with the books,” says Moss. “I have no connection to keeping books, but to him those are objects he’d like to return to.” Getchell, on the other hand, won’t let Moss put out his so-bad-they’re-fabulous Murano-glass candies. “I love their faux-ness, their fragility,” Moss says. “Bob Mellon, who became my family’s decorator, chose the candies that would go in the pewter dish in the foyer of my parents’ house. They had a green wrapper that picked up on the décor. My mother is still buying the same candies.”

The Worst Fight Of All:
“My oldest friend and I didn’t speak for over a year. She saw something in the store she didn’t like and left a message saying, ‘By the way, I hated that.’ I was so furious. I felt she didn’t understand that this was like life and death to me.” The object was a Laurene and Constantin Boym miniature of the World Trade Center, from the Buildings of Disaster series. “I have very strong feelings about souvenirs. We need places to put despair. With this object, you can deal with it when you want to, and then put it back.”


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