Architectural Digest 2016



An Unused Outdoor Space Is Transformed into a Garden Oasis in NYC

by Tisha Leung

Glenn Gissler designs a sliver of respite using smart space planning

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For big-city dwellers, having a little outdoor space to call your own is a luxury. Which is why the owners of this 1900s New York duplex were thrilled to have a 250-square-feet area for their family of four—except that it was actually a nondescript, open air shaft wedged between building walls. “The kids’ rooms were on one side and a guest room on the other, so it was a private jewel of a space,” says local designer Glenn Gissler. And he knew exactly how to transform it into a place of respite. First, he created a vestibule as a welcoming entry into the garden by installing stairs and raising the height of the seating area. A trellis overhead offers a sense of enclosure, while a mirror on the back wall makes the space feel larger. “A pair of French glass doors open up to the garden from a hallway,” says Gissler. “It’s lovely to view during the warmer months, but the architectural elements are just as compelling covered in snow in the winter.” Read on to see how the designer created a garden oasis in the middle of the city.

Photography by Gross & Daley Photo


To design an understated and symmetrical space that felt organic, Gissler confined his color scheme to dark browns, greens, and blues. Custom benches by Accents of France feature classical circular motifs, while the trellis overhead provides shade. “I included two bright blue Chinese garden stools that are placed off-center so the symmetry doesn’t feel so static,” he says.

The air shaft was filled with white gravel and white-painted brick walls. To give the space a solid foundation on which to build the rest of the garden, Gissler laid down bluestone pavers and covered the walls with stucco.

To design an understated and symmetrical space that felt organic, Gissler confined his color scheme to dark browns, greens, and blues. Custom benches by Accents of France feature classical circular motifs, while the trellis overhead provides shade. “I included two bright blue Chinese garden stools that are placed off-center so the symmetry doesn’t feel so static,” he says.


The garden is filled with evergreens like boxwood, rhododendron, and ivy mixed with colorful annuals and perennials. To sustain the vegetation, a self-watering irrigation system was installed beneath the removable pavers. Simple terra-cotta pots in various sizes help make the terrace feel bountiful.

Interior Design Master Class





by Glenn Gissler

Alchemists have existed in every major civilization—along with great artists and artisans—all engaged in an attempt to transform base metals into gold. Similarly, a good designer possesses a knowledge of elements that when amalgamated create magic in an interior.

Two of my favorite elements are fine art and objects.

Every surface of an interior is important, but the alchemy of design comes into play when the designer introduces and orchestrates fine art and objects, humble or precious, simple or ornate. Art in the interior is the great transformer, the secret formula for achieving superlative design.

The selection and placement of an art in an interior is extremely important, possible the single most important decision a designer will make. You can arrange and rearrange things almost infinitely, creating fresh, startling design perspectives and tableaux. The talismanic power of an object is enhanced by its position and the objects adjacent to it. The whole, forged by the intuitive selection and arrangement of objects in an interior, is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.

I often assist my clients in purchasing art—in some cases forming a nucleus on their collection—and I encourage clients to buy the very best art and objects they are willing to afford, but caution that if everything they purchase is at the highest level, the provocative potential—the poetry—of juxtaposition is neutralized.

The quality of interior design cannot be quantified; it does not have a price tag. Art and artifacts evoke a moment in time. It doesn’t matter if it’s “original”; it might be a nineteenth-century plaster cast of a Roman bust or the real thing. A beautiful object possesses an aura, an energy you cannot fake.

Art and objects alone do not make the room, although they may ignite its magic. The culmination of all the endless design decisions can be the most perfectly understated background, giving the illusion that nothing, neither heavy-handed nor weak, was done. The designer must learn to distribute resources to create design alchemy, a process which need not be enormously costly, but may pay great dividends to the client in the future in terms of increased value. Yet this is merely a fringe benefit; the presence of art creates an added value. Clients of relatively modest circumstances may be willing to send a surprising proportion of their money on art and objects simply because they perceive their incalculable aesthetic—and even spiritual value—in the interior.

Seeking visual relationships between artifacts of different eras and places is important to the alchemical process. A gifted photographer will uncover an affinity between two things that may have escaped me, see something I haven’t yet seen, as in the white, curving swathe in the middle of Richard Avedon’s photograph of Dovina and the elephant and the adjacent tall, white, curving caste on the mantlepiece. Sometimes between like and unlike, there is a hidden correspondence, as in a “fancy gilded X-legged Regency stool that is nevertheless clean and modern in its lines, which might be felicitously juxtaposed, say, with modern gold-leafed Carlo Scarpa vase. Although sometimes I transmit my own sensibility to my clients, I am always open to the inspired object, be it Bauhaus or Baroque. The fascination of form is to be found in all eras—all styles—but there is one caveat: eclecticism in the wrong hands is permissions for chaos.

Everyone seeks rooms that  are inviting and pleasurable, designed for living life in all its complexity and depth. Art and objects may cause the visitor to pause, they may, at the same time, prompt an inhabitant to see a new visual relationship, previous undiscovered, a dense web of relationships and resemblances, an interior world endlessly enriched and enriching. And the result is pure gold, brought forth by design alchemy.



FALL 2016


Greener Pastures

by Kate Missine
Photography: Gross & Daley Photo
Interior Design: Glenn Gissler

Transforming a new residence into a true home is a challenge that goes beyond picture-perfect decor


On a somewhat short timeline, a two-bedroom, two-bath loft in Greenwich Village for a single father and his middle school-aged daughter was designed move-in ready, emergina s a livable, artistically striking space where no detail was compromised.

“There was some urgency to have it warm, comfortable and settled quickly,” says Glenn Gissler, whose architectural training and wealth of knowledge in the decorative arts and turn-of-the-century style regularly land him among the top designer lists and magazine pages. “There was a fair amoutn of books and a lot fo art to be accommodated.”

The artwork- some from the client’s personal collection and other pieces acquired for the space – takes the spotlight in the warm cocoa-hued living room. A diverse mix of historic and modern (“not contemporary but classic modern,” Gissler notes) ranging from Donald Judd to Andy Warhol to Kiki Smith pops dramatically against the contrasting dark chocolate walls in Gissler’s trademark play of color and chiaroscuro.

“If you put light-colored artowkr on a light-colord wall, it becomes nearly invisible,” shares Gissler. ” A darker wall color recedes and becomes the frame, making the lighter elements come foward.”

The frolic of light is one of the designer’s specialties, and one that came in particularly handy in the loft, where natural lighting wasn’t abundant. “Like many lofts, it didn’t have a great amount of daylight, so lighting was a key element,” explains Gissler.

“We used lamps to create intimate spaces, directional lighting to illuminate artwork.” Dimmmers allow for atmospheric control whether for entertaining, television watching or relaxing.

“One of the challenges of a loft is that you’re always in the same place,” Gissler comments. “If you haven’t done your dishes or made your bed, you see it, always.” To counteract the open plan, we worked to build “layers,” which created separate spaces to be “revealed as you experienced the loft, not from the front door.”

Gissler’s favorite layer is in th eliving room nook, a cocooned corner framed by velvet-tufted sofas and a pair of rope Klismos chairs by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. “It’s a cozy space that’s unique in scale,” he points out, “especially the dark wall with the large-scale artwork.” Further in, touchable textures, stacks of books and more art set a relaxed mood in the TV room. A vibrant kitchen punched up with lacquered blue cabinets gives modern definition to the white-washed brick walls, leading into a dining room’s massive oak table paired with Anglo-Colonial style chairs.

“Some lofts can be cold because everything is so modern and the space is large,” says Gissler. “We used different vintages and different scales to create a much more domesticated feel.” Eclectic pieces span a range of styles and eras, and speak to a breadth of tastes and character. An antiquity circa 300 BC neighbors a Mexican cermical vessel on a T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings coffee table, inspired by classical Greek proportions. “His pieces have classic sensibilities but are contemporary for the day,” Gissler remarks. Furthermore, shelves from 1950s Denmark hold a vinage Italian bookstand displaying a Frank Stella print, and white Russel Wright American Modern dishes lend the kitchen a quirky retro vibe.

All part of an easy, natural interaction, zingy dtails carry on the mixed-era juxtaposition into the bedoorms – a funky, early European modern Zig-Zag chair from the 1920s; a 1950s Italian side table; and a 17th century linen Irish chair on cabriolet legs. In the daughter’s cheery room, her own artwork brings personality to the print-covered walls, and bright, colorful accents create a fun, yet functional teen hideaway.

“We wanted to help the family make the transition an dget settled together into their new home,” concludes Gissler. “It came together wonderfully; they love it.”