In the 1957 Audrey Hepburn movie musical Funny Face, an eccentric fashion editor, brought to life by the inimitable Kay Thompson, admonished her staff to “Think pink! Everything that you can think, and that includes the kitchen sink.” But this is not a color met with abandon by most designers, especially when the shade in question is a particularly bright shade of fuchsia.
Nevertheless, that was the color requested by designer Ernest de la Torre’s client, a mother and grandmother in her 70s who had been living at The Plaza Hotel for three years and wanted to move to SoHo to be closer to her son and grandchildren. “I was only going to put pink on the sofas,” de la Torre recalls, “but she wanted the color everywhere. She said it made her happy.” Rather than resist, de la Torre embraced it. “Why not,” he adds. “I’d never done an all-pink apartment before.”
Recognizing that the palette could quickly become overwhelming, de la Torre gave it a more balanced context by mixing in “elements of subdued fantasy and rawness.” In this case, fantasy skewed toward nature-inspired elements taken from Asian and Indian cultures, where, says de la Torre, “pink is pervasive.” Rawness refers to the industrial origins of the building, originally designed by Cleverdon and Putzel in 1895. Not conceived for residential use, it had begun life as an apparel and hat manufactory and, prior to its 1990s apartment conversion, had housed offices. Because of this, the space lacked the symmetry that is essential to classical proportion and grace, which impart livability to so many homes. With that in mind, the design team had to build the symmetry in.
Builders Steven Scordio and Anthony Scordio were charged with executing that symmetry within the existing plan. They did so by mirroring the centruy-old architectural elements. For example, sleeping quarters for the grandchildren featured a wall flanked by openings at both sides that infelicitously looked into a closet and bathroom. “I suggested surrounding it with a steel-and-glass wall,” says de la Torre of this raw, industrial part of the space. The move closed off those spaces while providing access to the door on one side. The opposite side emulates that doorway but doesn’t open into either space. But, as Steven Scordio admits, achieving that kind of radius, so that everything had symmetry and would be in proportion, was somewhat of a challenge.
Designed by architect Edward Siegel, the library is another departure from the home’s loft-like character. Siegel ornamented it with egg-and- dart cornices and moldings and Corinthian columns that are seemingly more at home in a Park Avenue pre-war apartment. “It becomes a neoclassical set piece in this modern building, which has very tall ceilings, exposed beams and electrical conduits,” Siegel says. The library is also one of the more personal spaces in the home offering a casual and comfortable space to read and be surrounded by things the client loves. Built-in bookshelves not only store books but provide ample space to house a curated collection of Asian-influenced pottery, vintage collectibles and black-and-white family photographs. The personal touches help bring the lofty space back to down to size. In the master bedroom, pink utterly evaporates, and is swathed in teal: the client’s “other favorite color.” But elsewhere it is clear—in a way that would have pleased Kay Thompson’s character—that de la Torre was able to “think pink” from a new, thoroughly modern perspective.