TEXT BY ALEXANDRA LANGE
In this city, you can know people for years without ever setting foot in their apartments—and naturally, you get a little curious. So we decided to impose on some of the most creative, stylish New Yorkers around to give us a personal tour. We couldn’t resist asking what Jean-Georges did with his kitchen, how Nell Campbell reinvented her Brooklyn townhouse, what Vibe’s Emil Wilbekin likes to put on the stereo, and where on earth Hilary Swank got that Joan of Arc statue. And we wanted to see if experts like the Keno brothers and Todd Oldham might have any design advice for us (of course they did). Speaking of advice, we also asked some of the city’s top architects and designers to help solve classic apartment problems: rooms with no view, the total absence of storage, a lack of light. Their solutions are both practical and crafty. from a radically renovated brownstone to an art-filled aerie.
Earning His Stripes
Whiz kid Todd Oldham (will he ever age?) proves that when it comes to mid-century modern, there’s no need to play by the rules.
Given the number of projects Todd Oldham has going on—dorm décor at Target, a collection with La-Z-Boy (!), a DIY tome for ReganBooks called Handmade Modern—it’s no surprise that he decided to use his own financial-district loft as a renovation laboratory. “We did the house as a test for the book,” he explains. “It’s a how-to for the mid-century-modern aesthetic.” He and his team swarmed the 1,500-square-foot rental, spending six weeks striping (as opposed to stripping) the walls, building shelves, and laying Crayola-inspired carpet tile. By July, the case study was an oasis. In the past, “I’ve worked on things for years,” Oldham says, “but I wanted this to be ready, to be able to put my feet up on the ottoman.”
MY NEW YORK
TRADING DOWN: “I’ve lived in New York since the late eighties, and I’ve always lived in Chelsea or downtown. So it was nice to move way downtown, because it is not so touched by the homogenization of the Giuliani reign. It was too much for me in Chelsea. And the architecture down here is pretty sublime; it’s nice to see such extreme styles.”
EATING OUT: “Kitchenette is divine. I go there as much as possible. That’s my canteen.”
EATING IN: “What I really love is not having supermarkets—where you are just assaulted by food—in my life. The lighting alone is a reason to avoid them. It is very nice to have a very low-key health-food store instead, like Bell Bates Natural Foods on Reade Street.”
LOGOPHOBIA: “I wear jeans, T-shirts, polos, sweaters. I don’t buy them—nice people will send me stuff. I don’t like things with logos, so I have to make sure they can be cut off. There’s a store called Vice on Lafayette Street I like. They sell Munsingwear, an old company which has reissued their clothes. They are made of polycotton, which is my favorite—it feels the best, holds up the best, does things other fabrics can’t do. I like cashmere okay, but as an animal-rights advocate, I know the distress it puts the animals through. I am very happy in synthetics.”
PHOTO-READY: “Robert Miller Gallery on 26th Street is just a jewel. It has all the stuff you would normally see in a museum, but you can actually get it.”
READING LIST: “I like Ursus on 21st Street, and I love the Strand; I live in the art-and- architecture section. But I would never turn to a Le Corbusier book when I’m thinking about furniture—I’m more inspired by looking at Diane Arbus or William Eggleston.”
DOGHOUSE: “Ann really doesn’t go out on the streets in New York. She spends most of her time outdoors at our country house in northeast Pennsylvania. The store Spot on Seventh Avenue is just great. They have toys and beautiful pillows and great dog carriers. Ann has a couple of carriers—they’re hers, not mine.”
FILM FORUM: “I love cooking dinner and having people over. The living room has a screen so I can turn it into a screening room—dinner and a movie. Last Tuesday, we skipped the movie and made a big risotto. We watch a lot of documentaries.” As for movies in the theaters, Oldham recommends Bugs in 3-D on the Imax screen—“It’s just brilliant.”
THE OBJECT THAT GOT AWAY: “It has happened rarely. Once, Kim Hastreiter had found these paintings of presidents at the flea market. When I saw them, I just about fainted. I thought about pushing her over and buying them myself, but she’s a friend. So I told her to buy them. At least they live at Kim’s.”
Beth Rudin DeWoody
An Eye for the Wry
If you lived in Beth Rudin DeWoody’s Upper East Side apartment, you might be tempted to leave it at the view—or, rather, views. “You have a park view and a river view,” she says. “I am so grateful for that.” But DeWoody, a philanthropist who heads the Rudin family’s foundations (and who will co-chair the Studio Museum of Harlem gala this month) and an inveterate collector, has studded her sunstruck living room with works of art both classic and sarcastic: a Kenneth Noland target, for example, next to Tom Sachs’s mordant take on the local wildlife, a rat made of Balthazar boxes. “I love the rat,” she says. “It’s so New York.”
MY NEW YORK
LOCAL GIRL: “I was born in the neighborhood and spent the first ten years of my life there. And I’ve been in this apartment since 1987—I’ve done lots of work to it.”
CHANGING TASTES: “I love thirties, forties, fifties—the glamour but also the funky stuff. I had different furniture before; the living room had more of a Biedermeier look. But I gave it to my ex-husband. I wanted a room with clean lines, yet not minimal. Something that was modern but comfortable.”
SHOPPING GUIDE: “I get furniture all over the place: Neo in Sag Harbor, and some things in Florida. I’ve even bought things off friends. The last things I bought were a pair of forties andirons from Deco Deluxe, Sandi Berman’s shop.”
MOVIE SET YOU’D MOVE INTO: “Probably Auntie Mame’s place, because she had great style. I like that she kept changing it all the time.”
BIGGEST DESIGN RISK: “I have this gigantic pink dildo, by Alicia Fiandaca, a young artist, in my entry hall.” She laughs. “Is that an art risk?”
Vibe honcho—and self-confessed sneaker addict—Emil Wilbekin left a dark studio for an aerie that looks Californian but makes him feel like he’s finally living in New York.
MY NEW YORK
THE VIEW FROM HERE: “Now I feel like I really live in New York because I can actually see the skyline. And Whole Foods is in the neighborhood. But I do try to avoid Eighth Avenue as much as possible.”
HOUSE PARTY: “I entertain at home a lot. We drink champagne and listen to music. Right now I’m playing a lot of Mary J. Blige.”
NEXT? “I’m torn because I’m renting, so there are things I want to do but I know I shouldn’t.” (We know the feeling.) “But I would like a vintage zebra carpet in the living room.”
Alex Shuman, a design director at Michael Kors, and her architect husband (the other Michael in her life) have created an East Side haven for themselves—and their six birds.
“For me, it’sall about the mix,” says Alex Shuman, designdirector of Michael Kors’s women’scollection. She’s talking about clothes, butit’s a philosophy she also applies at home,where she collaborates with her husband, MichaelShuman. An architect, he retrofitted their Upper EastSide duplex with ebonized floors and walls of whiteshelves, the better to display the couple’scollections of design books, modern art, and quirkytextiles—from Burmese to coyote skin.Michael’s next project, with his firm MASDesign,is considerably more public: a talking, glowingrecording booth that will be installed later thismonth in Grand Central’s VanderbiltHall—the prototype for a nationwide oral-historyinitiative called “StoryCorps,” led byNPR’s David Isay.
OUR NEW YORK
MOVING ON UP: “So many people said,‘You’re such a downtown person,’” says Alex, “ ‘ how are you goingto live on the Upper East Side?’ Butthere’s so much pressure in your daily life, andup here it’s tree-lined blocks and Central Park.We were also thinking about a family.”
RACING ON DOWN: “I just hop on the FDR on my BMWmotorcycle,” says Alex. “It’s reallyfast. It makes chores fun.”GOING OUT: “We live near a small Italian coffeeshop, Via Quadronno (which has the perfect panini),and Soup Burg (which is the perfect diner).”
HAVING PEOPLE IN: “We have an LCD projector, sowe’ll invite friends over for Lawrence ofArabia and popcorn.”
CROSS-DRESSING: “I love mixing Michael Korscoats and sweaters with a pair of old Levi’scords,” says Alex. “Amarcord, which isright over the Williamsburg Bridge, has really nicethrift clothes.” “I’ve never worn anything but Levi’sjeans,” swears Michael, “and I’dnever want to.” (He has, however, been known toorder from the Michael Kors men’s collection.)
BIRDS AND TURKEYS: “We have six birds,”says Alex, including an African gray parrot and a“mini” macaw. “There’s areally wonderful man who has a shop calledBirdcamp—if we leave the birds with him atThanksgiving, he’ll cook them Thanksgivingdinner.” Well, as long as they’re not onthe menu.
SIX FIXES: Manhattan’s top architects and designers offer inventive (and inexpensive) solutions to the problems that most plague the New York City rental problem.