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.