Scenes From a Classic Fourteen

Photo: Dean Kaufman

Fernando Sanchez’s home is one of the city’s last true holdouts of Belle Époque living. The fashion designer bought it in 1979, and it’s the largest original apartment in the Osborne—the building kitty-corner to Carnegie Hall—that hasn’t been sliced into multiple units. How many rooms does he have? “Some say fourteen, some say eleven,” Sanchez says with a shrug in the massive foyer. (It depends on how you count the bathrooms.) “This was countryside here,” he adds of his neighborhood. “When I saw original pictures of the Osborne, there were cows around.” The 1885 building, built by James E. Ware, was not particularly luxurious for its time, but simply bourgeois, says Sanchez, who’s decorated his place in what might best be termed grand-bohemian fashion.

How He Came to New York
Born in Spain, Sanchez moved to Paris at 17 and learned his trade working with his friend and former classmate at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, Yves Saint Laurent. But New York beckoned: “In 1960, I met [fashion illustrator] Joe Eula, and he said I should move here. And then I went to see West Side Story in Paris, and fifteen days later I took the plane. And I landed in May, and it was West Side Story, and it was everything that I wanted.”

How He Got This Apartment
“I was accustomed to the downtown loft life,” recalls Sanchez, and when he had to move out of his longtime Village home, he couldn’t imagine going anywhere smaller. He bumped into Condé Nast’s Leo Lerman, also an Osborne resident, who told him to come uptown immediately. “He said, ‘I have an apartment for you. It hasn’t been touched.’ ”

1. The Mirrors
By Gaudí, they’re quite rare, and hail from Barcelona.

2. The Armchairs
“Maxime de la Falaise arrived one day and said, ‘I found two chairs for $26.’ I put a white sheet on top of them.” The other one’s by the coffee table.

3. The Lighting
The brass lamps have dimmers, which Sanchez considers key. He likes to live by candlelight.

4. The Shell
The fossil is of Moroccan origin. Sanchez bought it—and the large candle holders—at Jacques Carcanagues.

Photo: Dean Kaufman

The Piece of Art
A calligrapher in Chinatown drew it in the traditional way—with one stroke. It’s perfectly reflected in the wooden Japanese mirror above the fireplace.

The Coffee Table
“I had it built a million years ago” (i.e., in the seventies). “It’s like an old box used to harbor vegetables.”

The Seating
There are two wood-slat stools from Jacques Grange and a Gaudí heart chair at the end of the coffee table.

The Sofa
Known for his luxurious at-home wear, Sanchez—who “started designing nightgowns as a spoof”—is adept at achieving high style via simple measures. The twenty-foot-long sofa is made out of two firm mattresses covered in machine-washable cotton. The entire thing was sewn together by Forsythe Decorators—“real traditional Jewish ladies who were so sympathique and did every pillow in the house.”

Photo: Dean Kaufman

The Study
1. The Colors
Sanchez chose “very natural, Mediterranean colors, the color of antiquity. And the houses in the Mediterranean are bordered in white and the blue sky.”

2. The Wall Decoration
The plates surrounding the Venetian mirror are Delft and belonged to Sanchez’s mother. They had a more formal life—displayed on stands—in his childhood home. Below them are some “knickknacks,” like a seventeenth-century Christ in ivory.

3. The Krishna
The Hindu god sits on a Moroccan table from the forties, which“looks very Colonial to me.”

4. The Bookcase
The pyramid shelving system was made by Alexis de la Falaise, son of Maxime and brother of Loulou, and is a masterpiece of mathematics and engineering, at least according to other architects who have seen it. There is an Indian god on top, a gift. “It seemed to fit perfectly well there. I worship this pyramid. Besides the beauty of it, it has sentimental relations.”

5. His Floor Library
Sanchez has reading binges: “I go through historical trips, certain periods of time, and then I go through a jewelry trip and so I have every book on jewelry I can find. Then I have a Diaghilev-Nijinsky-Cocteau corner. It depends where the head is.” When not reading in his apartment, Sanchez likes the fact that a walk through its more than 5,000 square feet can double as exercise.

6. The Sleigh Bed
It’s from Jacques Grange and is a copy of an eighteenth-century-style bed done for Florence Gould by Jean-Michel Frank.

Scenes From a Classic Fourteen