The Next White

WORKac papered walls, the ceiling, and doors with their custom circular pattern to make the existing ugly moldings and hardware disappear. The Berjan Pot pendant lamp from Design Within Reach added another circle. An Elizabeth Peyton self-portrait hangs above a Superstudio griddled bench bought at Moss.Photo: Adam Friedberg

For someone who owned one of the first Bugaboos, is part of the Architecture and Design Committee at the Museum of Modern Art, and shops the Milan furniture fair, living in a low-ceilinged postwar box apartment is unacceptable. But that was the position Sharon Coplan Hurowitz, a private art adviser, found herself in when a pipe burst in her Fifth Avenue apartment. She, her husband, and two young children had to vacate—fast. Twenty-four hours later, she had a deposit on a nearby rental and had called MoMA design curator Paola Antonelli for a list of up-and-coming New York architects who would work within her time frame (yesterday) and her budget, which she describes as “modest-slash-laughable.” “I wanted to start a dialogue with someone doing interesting work but to engage them now, when I could still have access,” Hurowitz says, which is a good strategy for collecting furniture as well as architects.

At the top of the short list was WORKac, whose principals Amale Andraos and Dan Wood worked together at Rem Koolhaas’s office and will soon be known for their Diane Von Furstenberg headquarters on West 14th Street (opening this summer). “We met at her flooded apartment,” says Andraos. “It was in a very sad state, except of course for the incredible furniture and art just laid out on the floor.” Taken with Hurowitz’s collection—focused on European designers from the nineties to the present, Boontje to Wanders—and her fearless decorating sense (she’d already decided the bedrooms were to be blue, green, and violet), they agreed to her conditions. The family moved into a hotel, and WORKac got down to business.

Since all the work in the apartment had to be reversible—remember, this is a rental—they could radically alter only the surfaces. But Hurowitz gave them the go-ahead to be as radical as possible, using just immediately available materials. First order: custom-dyed Stark carpet in the bedrooms, with paint picked from Janovic Plaza to match. (The carpets, dyed in Europe, were the last items installed. Otherwise, the renovation might have taken only six weeks.) Hurowitz had already lived with a very bright green in her former apartment, so for the floors, WORKac decided to spin their way through the color wheel of available vinyl, adding yellow and red to the cool tones of the private spaces.

For the public spaces, Andraos and Wood began playing with floor patterns in industrial Lonseal vinyl, keeping the dimensions of Hurowitz’s major pieces—the Bouroullec brothers’ limited-edition Cabane (the trellis over the sofa), Thomas Demand’s wall-size photograph Poll—in mind. “Circles seemed really fitting, like spotlights for the furniture,” says Andraos.

More circles were used in the hall, a formal, windowless space that feeds to all the other rooms. Hurowitz originally wanted to paper it in a limited-edition John Baldessari wallpaper (she’s writing his catalogue raisonné of prints and multiples) but realized that would be a waste. So Andraos and Wood drew a custom circular pattern on their computer, and had it printed at Archetonic Design in Florida. Door-to-door, one week. “It was very liberating that everything had an ephemeral aspect,” says Hurowitz. “The joke is that we have been here for a year. And given how aggressive real-estate prices are, we are obviously going to be here longer.”

Rather than spending money upgrading closet doors and hardware, WORKac decided to screen the limited storage with custom-made curtains, a different pattern for every room, designed by Brooklyn-based Elodie Blanchard. Made of layers of parachute cloth, the drapes have appliquéd circles in the common rooms, waves in the master bedroom, and animals in the kids' rooms. The master-bedroom walls took three tries to get the right blue, somewhere between aqua and ice. The table is customized Knoll by Stephen Sprouse; the bedside lamp vintage Memphis.Photo: Adam Friedberg
Her son's room here is the same color as in the family's flooded apartment, an almost radioactive green. His play table is by Wanders, with clear legs the children love to fill with toys. "I am always looking for contemporary children's design," Hurowitz says. "I always joked Moss made a big mistake that they don't have a children's section."Photo: Adam Friedberg
Hurowitz does not shy away from bright colors, so the red vinyl in the living room was an easy decision. The apartment's largest "spotlight" sets off the Bouroullec brothers' Cabane structure, one of only three made, which Hurowitz paired with a Piero Lissoni sofa. "Most people wouldn't put that Cabane over my red couch," she says. "But I like when things have an edge." The Demand hangs opposite a Thomas Ruff self-portrait. The two tables are by Marcel Wanders: one designed for Moooi (with legs, in front of the sofa); the other for Bisazza (with flowers, to the left).Photo: Adam Friedberg
"I am not a pastel person, so I didn't want my daughter to have this sweet baby room," Hurowitz says. "I wanted it to be much more charged, but still feminine." The crib and settee are by ducduc, the teddy bears by the Campana brothers, and the stuffed flower by Takashi Murakami. More Japanese toys from Yoyamart keep company with an absurdist Maurizio Cattelan photo.Photo: Adam Friedberg
Hurowitz's daughter hangs out in a Nest high chair (another circle) under Rody Graumans's 85 Lamps (available at Moss). The Ikea dining table was meant to be temporary. It was paired with Marcel Wanders's "New Antiques" chairs, designed for Cappellini, which play on the American spindle style. Hurowitz's home office is at the back, screened in a custom-made cubicle designed by WORKac and made of earthy Dakota Burl strand board to contrast with all that plastic. The bookshelves here and elsewhere are California Closets—relatively inexpensive, and all removable.Photo: Adam Friedberg
The Next White