Introspective Magazine

INTROSPECTIVE MAGAZINE

DESIGN STYLES

See the High-Style 1970s Home of a Renowned New York Preservationist

by Glenn Gissler
Photography by Joshua McHugh

We offer the first public peek at a Joe D’Urso–designed Upper West Side apartment that hasn’t been touched in 40 years — and discover the many lessons both the space and its owners, Arlene and Bruce Simon, have to teach.

Joe D’Urso — a pioneer of forward-looking, minimalist modernism — designed the apartment of Bruce and Arlene Simon on New York’s Upper West Side more than 40 years ago. Thanks to the Simons’ careful upkeep — she’s a well-known preservation advocate — it remains a study in sleek black, white and gray. Top: For the dining room, D’Urso created a modular table system (one leaf hangs from the wall when not in use, looking like an Ad Reinhardt painting deployed as bulletin board), and he added chairs in the style of Marcel Breuer’s 1920s Cesca design.

Even in the analog days of the 1970s, word traveled fast about a certain emerging and remarkably talented interiors star. His name was Joe D’Urso, and he was shaking up the design world.

I still remember the first time I saw his work, just after I graduated from high school and 10 years before I would start a design practice of my own. It was in Architectural Digest’s November/December 1976 issue, which featured a New York City home D’Urso had reinvented as an exemplar of High Tech design, the extreme minimalistmodernindustrial style that had become his signature. The Upper West Side apartment was unlike anything I had ever seen or imagined.

The space, located at the top of a West 67th Street Gothic-revival atelier building, was a four-bedroom duplex belonging to prominent labor lawyer Bruce Simon and his wife, Arlene Simon, a childrenswear designer who in 1985 would cofound the trailblazing neighborhood preservation group LandmarkWest!. In creating the apartment’s design, D’Urso used the most limited palette of colors and materials and the fewest pieces of furniture possible. He covered the floors in nearly black commercial-grade carpeting of a sort not usually associated with residential design, contrasting its dark hue and low, nubby texture with smooth high-gloss white paint. This he used on every paintable surface, from the wood paneling and balusters to the built-in cabinets, doors, walls, beams and ceilings.

His design for the home’s soaring main space, a double-height living room overlooked by a balcony originally intended to accommodate musical performances, felt radically new.

He furnished the space sparsely, with a few blocky, rolling black-Formica coffee tables and a couple of low-slung woven chairs set on a high carpeted platform. That plinth was one of several he created to break up and define various sections of the room, using one as a sofa, another as a daybed, and one even as a table. To help balance out the cavernous volume, D’Urso suspended a large split-leaf philodendron on wires from the ceiling, and Arlene added black canvas pillows to the extended built-in sofa, with more on the daybed near the fireplace.

Read the full Article on 1stdibs.com

 

West End Avenue Apartment – NYC

UPPER WEST SIDE – NYC

West End Avenue Apartment

Works of fine art by Picasso, Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, Al Held, and Terry Winters hang amid furniture of comparable aesthetic stature in this classic ten-room apartment on West End Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. For the clients, empty nesters, we mixed mid-twentieth century design with traditional forms of furniture that speak to supreme comfort. So distinctive are certain 20th century artifacts–icons of the avant-garde of their time–that they approach the level of fine art.

Seen with a magnificent Sultanabad carpet, c. 1900, deeply upholstered English-style sofas and armchairs, and plain yet luxurious draperies, the contemporary objects such as architect Frank Gehry’s corrugated “Wiggle Chair” take on new resonance and context; just as an Ethiopian carved wood chair, c. 1900, seems mysteriously to fit with the undulating mahogany and brass cabinet by Tommi Parzinger, c. 1950, we chose for this project.

This residence fuses luxury with restraint, comfort with discipline, and fine art of the highest order with consummate works of decorative art. It represents a lively and inspired collaboration between clients and the designer in creating a new collection, and implanting its art and artifacts in a home as livable as it is stylish.

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An eclectic array of furniture marks the transition from living room to dining room, the latter seen through wide French doors. In the Living Room, an antique Italian armchair by Ulrich Guglielmo, Italy from the 1950’s echoes the curves of the Danish Modern rosewood pedestal table, the Frank Gehry Wiggle Chair, and Herve van der Straeten’s “Tornade” lamp.

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Surprising harmonies in rich reds, ebonies and honey tones are exemplified by the custom red wool area rug from Martin Patrick Evan; the Chinese camphor wood altar table from Shanxi Province, c. 1850; and textiles from Donghia and Gretchen Bellinger. An aquatint etching by Cubist artist Jacques Villon is posed on a cast iron artist’s easel.

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Comfort meets culture: above the custom sofa from Jonas Upholstery in Holly Hunt’s “Great Plains Paisley” are two prints by Brice Marden. The custom coffee table is topped in pale gray honed marble; the walls are in a Donald Kaufman paint; and antique Asian modern lamps are from Glenn Gissler Design’s inventory.

The 1947 painting, “Fugue,” by Abstract Expressionist James Brooks, rivets our attention. Poised on the custom coffee table is an ancient work of Pre-Columbian art, a Colima Carinate Vessel, between 300 B.C. and 300 A.D., from Douglas Dawson Gallery. (Second) A corner devoted to interesting early and mid 20th century design: the Vienna Secession side table by Gustav Siegel, c. 1905, accompanies a luxurious tufted custom daybed upholstered in Lee Jofa’s “Tahira Ottoman” fabric. The modernist floor lamp was designed in the 1950s by Austrian designer J.T. Kalmar.

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Picasso’s portrait of Dora Maar of 1939-42 hangs above an Ethiopian carved wooden chair, c. 1900, from Kimcherova. On the adjacent wall, above Austrian designer Tommi Parzinger’s mahogany and brass cabinet, c. 1950, hangs a print by contemporary abstract artist Terry Winters.

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A quartet of bold ink drawings by Al Held defines this space, where a comfortable banquette in a Holly Hunt Great Plains Fabric surrounds a custom table of solid walnut. The distinctive side chairs are by Ico Parisi, Italy c. 1947, from Leon Hamaekers. The milk glass chandelier with Edison bulbs is from Early Electrics.

"A day doesn't go by where I don't find myself thrilled to be in this apartment!"

– Client

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Comfort and earthiness define the Family Room, with two deep, boxy Jean-Michel Frank sofas upholstered by Jonas Upholstery. The rugged central light fixture–a new machine age artifact–was custom made by Daniel Berglund, its frame composed of industrial conveyor belt links. A boldly striped wool rug from Martin Patrick Evan grounds the ensemble.

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Two framed collages by Conrad Marca-Relli from Hollis Taggart Galleries invoke a neo-primitive element. A large Nassau coffee table from Williams-Sonoma invites piles of books. The room’s woody quality is accentuated by vintage or contemporary hand hewn wooden side tables, including the round Heliotrope table from Newman Studio.

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Soft neutrals create an inviting sense of repose. The king sized upholstered bed is by Baker, Knapp & Tubbs, the fabric by Pollack. Contemporary designer Lindsey Adelman’s chandelier is of oil-rubbed bronze with hand-blown glass globes; the unusual floor lamp is by French designer Rispal, 1955; and the bedside chrome and clear glass table lamps are from Saladino.

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A curvaceous Boudin armchair with ottoman, upholstered in Pollack fabric is perfect for reading, illuminated by the Rispal lamp. The sculptural Tetra table is from C.S. Post & Co. Custom flat roman shades in Sahco fabric and curtain panels in Pollack fabric were made by Boaz Sharoni Design. The carpet is from Paul H. Lee.

Global Inspired Modern

UPPER WEST SIDE – NYC

Global Inspired Modern

A young West Coast transplant to New York City found a great two bedroom apartment to put down her roots. The 1920’s apartment had all the character people seek in more traditional apartments, but rather than pursuing a traditional decor we put together a younger, more comfortable style with global patterns and textures mixed with some mid-century inspiration. 

Our young client grew up in a household with a lot of art, and the tradition continues here with works on paper by David Hockney, Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet, and others, as well as some multi-cultural artifacts  from Africa, Japan, and Persia.

We established a continuous color palate throughout the apartment that was used for upholstery, curtains and paint colors that includes lavender, light and medium blues, deep purple that were coupled with a white trim and millwork throughout. And used a mix of textures and modern shapes and soft silhouettes to create a younger and more feminine feeling for the apartment. 

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An organic blown glass bubble chandelier hangs over a modern table paired with rattan dining chairs for a less formal feeling. Purple linen curtains frame the only window in the Dining Room, which help to balance the wonderful Jean Dubuffet print. 

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A colorful vintage Persian rug establishes a global point of view at the front door with a grey shagreen covered console table seen against the texture of neutral grass cloth. The purple stool serves a purpose in this shoes-free home, and the vintage sculpture and geometric raspberry lamp add further interest. 

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The large comfortable linen-covered sofa with its bohemian mix of pillows covered in velvet, linen and kilim rug remnants encourage hanging out, casual entertaining, reading or watching a movie. The owner’s love of book inspired the wall of custom bookshelves, which bring a casual den-like feeling to the room. Bronzy golden metals are used in a variety of ways throughout the apartment for furniture, lighting, hardware, trays and some picture frames. 

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Casual linen-covered sofa with a  back-drop of a built-in bookcase.

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A pair of mid-century modern sideboards, each with a pair of modern purple lamps and large mirrors over them, create an infinity spatial effect in the Dining Room.

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An organic blown glass bubble chandelier hangs over a modern table paired with rattan dining chairs for a less formal feeling. Purple linen curtains frame the only window in the Dining Room, which help to balance the wonderful Jean Dubuffet print. 

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The bright second bedroom serves as a modern home office, with a large built-in work surface and extensive storage as well as a chic daybed that can accommodate overnight guests. 

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A deep purple paint was used to create a rich calm sleeping environment with a mix of soft colors as a compliment. Linen curtain, velvet bench, waffle textured bedcover and an over-scaled knit throw continue the tactile surfaces used in the apartment.