“I am famous for last-minute invitations,” says interior designer William Sofield, laughing. He juggles projects on both coasts and designs Gucci stores worldwide, which has made impromptu entertaining something of a necessity. The recent cocktail croquet party Sofield hosted on the rooftop of his penthouse offices in lower Manhattan was no exception. This time, however, he decided to up the ante with a Surrealist theme.
“The notion of ‘tar beach’ as an alternative summer playground is something I’ve always delighted in,” he says. “The advent of the elevator made it possible in the twenties to really inhabit the city’s rooftops, and I think the Surrealists were probably the first to seize upon the idea of the roofscape as a sort of alternate city.”
This summer “happening” could only occur with a little help from friends in Sofield’s NoHo neighborhood, who contributed art and furnishings that helped evoke Le Corbusier’s famous outdoor room (designed in the thirties for Count de Bestigui in Paris) while also paying homage to Surrealist artists like Magritte and Salvador Dalí. “I love the idea of a rooftop furnished as an indoor room,” says Sofield. “It’s a theme that I’ve always played with: inversion.”
Guests were asked to wear black, instead of the traditional croquet white, so that they wouldn’t be lost in the 1,200-square-foot sea of snowy-white troll hair he laid down for the occasion, and they arrived in everything from a skimpy black Gucci G-string to black tie and tails. Sipping Krug champagne and nibbling hors d’oeuvre from Indochine, Sofield and friends managed to escape for a few surreal hours from the reality below.