The Space Expanders: The architecture firm, adept at tricky urban spaces, was recently hired by a young family to make a ruined, dark, narrow Harlem townhouse—only sixteen feet wide—feel significantly more expansive. Since staircases in typical turn-of-the-century houses can take up almost a quarter of the floor plate, the architects rethought the standard rowhouse form by building a free-floating staircase at the back of the house. They also reinvented the typical townhouse façade by installing a two-floor glass-and-recycled-metal bay window to greatly increase the house’s light.
The Eclectic Modernist: Ford specializes in giving clients mid-century-modern apartments that don’t look like a time capsule from 1952. He is as much of an Eames devotee as the next designer, but he has clearly absorbed the lessons of Charles and Ray better than most: Just as they mixed antique masks and tribal rugs with their modern pieces, Ford, on one recent job, put a Saarinen chair in direct opposition with a stool he describes as “a carved African pouf.”
The Illusionist: One of D-ASH’s clients had a perfectly nice postwar apartment on Sutton Place with a view of Roosevelt Island. But what she really wanted was to live in a loft—a cleaner space that would accentuate that view. So, David Ashen, principal of D-ASH and known for his visual trickery in nightclub design (Avalon, XL), put in new walls that don’t quite touch the eight-foot ceiling in order to make the room seem bigger. He also discovered that the space would appear more loftlike if the kitchen felt less like a discrete space than a round, free-floating container. “We wanted it,” he explains, “to seem more like a piece of furniture.”
G and L Architects
The Lighters: Randall Goya and Sara Lopergolo gained their experience in lighting by working for clients like the Neue Galerie, where Goya was project architect for another firm. “The challenge,” he says, “is how to apply it to projects with much smaller budgets.” One of their specialties is brightening up the darkest regions of lofts. To let more natural light into one apartment, they used sliding doors with translucent plastic Acrilyte panels. As for artificial light, says Lopergolo, they’ve learned that “even a gesture as simple as the repetition of a light fixture throughout a loft can create much more texture than one would think.”
The Experimenter: Archi-tect Gordon Kipping, who shared credit with Frank Gehry on the downtown Issey Miyake store (a job he hoped would garner him more commissions than it has so far), runs a test lab of sorts for low-cost materials in his Canal Street loft. He’s currently designing large canvas panels for use as space dividers and doors. At a tentative price of around $400 a pair, they’re not only cheaper than walls but also far more flexible.
The Disciplinarian: As a decorator, Ghaleb has learned, you have to be very strict about getting clients to throw things away—but you also have to figure out how to reorganize the things they simply won’t part with. In the case of one recent job—for a writer and his editor wife—Ghaleb confronted a house where books were overwhelming the furniture: a disparate mix of black leather couches and Scandinavian pieces. She put all the volumes on one big shelf along the longest wall, a simple solution that her clients, living for so long with the space the way it was, had somehow never visualized.
The Gentle Overhauler: Trainer David Kirsch’s clients would no doubt have been shocked at the way he lived in his large Fifth Avenue studio: like a college student, with boxes everywhere and colored sheets masquerading as slipcovers. He wanted the apartment to grow up. Penelope Irwin quickly divided the space into more discrete spaces (a large table, rather than the boxes, now separates the bed area from the living room). But experience has taught her that even when clients ask for a complete renovation, they want to move back into something familiar. Her “turn-key” approach to a job means that when Kirsch walked into his redone apartment for the first time, his clothes were hanging in new closets and his favorite foods were stocked in the new cupboards.
The Mixer: Jaklitsch—who’s designed more than twenty Marc Jacobs stores—is very good at cool modernism, but he’s also come to recognize that many residential clients say they want something modern, but don’t actually want to live in chilly perfection. So, for his home designs, he specializes in a well-edited mix of austerity and warmth. For a West 12th Street basement kitchen, Jaklitsch contrasted the room’s exposed wood beams with rough textured wooden cabinetry and a stainless-steel backsplash.
The Loft Carver: Architect Kikoski and his wife live in Barnett Newman’s old painting-studio loft—whose light, from eleven windows, is its best feature—but they had a new baby and needed to create more private space. Instead of throwing up walls, Kikoski, known for his work with lofts, designed a system of five massive panels of prismatic glass that slide on curving tracks set into the floor and ceiling. The five-by-ten-foot panels let sunlight penetrate deep within each room but are not see-through.