Whether you long for comfy crushed velvet or gleaming stainless steel, our metropolis has a designer who is right for your apartment. Here, our definitive list of the city's top interior talents, their signature looks, and their most well-known clients. Bear in mind: You won't find some of New York's biggest draws -- Philip Johnson, David Rockwell -- in the following pages, largely because their focus is outside the home (call them, however, if you've got a fabulous restaurant or museum to build). What you will find is a range of home-design legends and up-and-comers, each of them ready to help you rethink how you live.
A - Be
Aero Studios Limited
132 Spring Street (212-966-4700)
Thomas O'Brien has a sense of personal style so refined it can be broken down into its constituent parts: dark woods, pale colors, elemental lighting, and modern furniture (by himself and others) in sleek, subtly textured materials. His current passion? "This high-gloss epoxy paint I'm using in my new Bellport house. It has a wonderful vintage-yet-modern quality." Clients: Giorgio Armani, Ralph and Ricky Lauren
Ahari Associates Architecture
225 Lafayette Street, Suite 205 (212-431-4456)
M. Nasser Ahari adds a romantic flavor to modern rooms, using handmade cast metal, his own sconces, and bronze tiles. An 1850s townhouse, for example, was retrofitted with shoji screens in the bedroom and an adjustable dining table that can be raised for pancakes, lowered for sushi. Plain spaces are roughed up with interesting objects, many from Asia, some from Africa. Clients: Abigail Disney, Robert Kelly
21 West 16th Street, Garden Level (646-230-7222)
Principal Courtney Sloane's style is bold and high-tech, to suit the electronic needs of her entertainment-industry clientele. But she mixes the heavy metals -- "copper in any form" -- with a softer, seventies spatial sense (like conversation pits) and an array of Asian and African touches. "We always include ethnic accessories and artworks from other cultures, and mix them with cutting-edge, contemporary art." Clients: Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Queen Latifah
111 Mercer Street (212-226-0303)
Architect Winka Dubbeldam will soon be known for her 497 Greenwich Street condo project, an eleven-story building with a horizontally rippling glass façade. Dubbeldam's houses and apartments also favor the avant-garde: A globetrotting bachelor got a blue concrete tub rising out of the floor, a suburban couple a house like a continuous corridor, with cul-de-sacs for eating, sleeping, and working. Clients: Frederique Van Der Wal, Steve Saks
Architecture Research Office
180 Varick Street (212-675-1870)
The work of partners Stephen Cassell and Adam Yarinsky moves beyond modern via adventures in materials: laser-cut stainless steel, leather floors, a translucent beeswax partition in a home. "Our work uses carefully studied details, materials, and light to create intimacy and warmth."
Bruce T. Bananto Inc.
159 West 25th Street (212-727-0282)
Light practically bounces around a Bananto-designed apartment, reflecting from tin ceiling to polished floor. "My color palette is generally neutral" -- white walls, creamy Bolon carpets -- "with a spare use of objectified color": fifties furniture in sharp reds and blues. Clients: Alyssa Gursky and Nunzio Tarantino
John Barman Inc.
500 Park Avenue (212-838-9443)
Clients praise Barman for injecting contemporary glamour into traditional architecture; beneath his classic, tailored exterior beats the heart of an extreme modernist. The designer himself says he takes a "twenty-first-century approach" to the upscale apartment, "luxurious and infused with vibrant color." Clients: Wynton Marsalis, Bryant Gumbel, Leonard and Allison Stern
Sara Bengur Associates
525 Broadway, Suite 701 (212-226-8796)
Bengur is a maximalist, known for extravagant combinations of textiles old and new. "The more you can design a space with one-of-a-kind objects, the better," she says, and she's willing to do the legwork to find vintage fabrics and objects. All this without sacrificing family-friendly comforts or room for elegant entertaining. Clients: John and Sarah Duerden, Thomas Leddy, Mark O'Donnell and Jim Allman
Deborah Berke & Partners Architects LLP
211 West 19th Street (212-229-9211)
Berke describes her ethos as "simple, elegant, understated . . . subtle, luxurious, thoughtful," and that about sums it up. Sometimes the warm Shaker, sometimes the cool urbanist, she creates rooms out of slabs of golden wood, luminous plaster, and striated limestone. Clients: Fabien Baron, William Wegman, Jennifer Bartlett