It’s not every day that an interior designer is asked to survey a space before his or her client has even purchased it. But, if you’re Vicente Wolf, it happens more often than not, and this space on the seventh floor of one of Manhattan’s newest residential buildings is no exception.
The client had already asked Wolf to assess a few other contenders. Wolf took a peek at this one and gave the nod—with the caveat that he’d convert the three-bedroom home into two, expand the living room and brighten up and conceal the kitchen from the entry.
Though its shiny serpentine facade has made the building one of the more notable architectural additions to the neighborhood in recent years, it also makes for a quirky, undulating interior space (with an occasional large column) that posed a challenge for a designer known for chic and refined interiors—and accustomed to working in rooms with relatively straight lines.
“The floor plan didn’t divide the space, but instead boomeranged you around,” says Wolf, who worked on the project with his design associate, David Rogal. Determined to define individual sections of the apartment with color and structural elements, “I wanted to give each area a different mood,” says Wolf.
First on the agenda was to widen one end of the living room by punch- ing through a wall to the third bedroom and combining the two spaces into one large area for entertaining. The result is an enlarged alcove for which Wolf designed a curved L-shaped sofa that seats at least eight and fits into a rounded corner of the room. Additional seating is afforded by glazed-linen swivel chairs and a double-width chaise.
To define the dining area, Wolf designed an upholstered, high-backed banquette with a window-like cutout that, with its curves, gives the space an intimate feel. An oval dining table made of honed moonstone complements its soft contours, and a molecule-shaped chandelier casts a warm, soft light that is reflected in four polished-steel panels mounted on a nearby wall.
“Being so exposed, this space could have easily been very cold,” says Wolf, gesturing toward the apartment’s wrap-around, floor-to-ceiling windows. To soften its stark light, he installed a translucent curtain that follows a track along a meandering perimeter, allowing his client to edit the view; gave the floors a dark stain as a ground for textured hides and carpets; and applied a white gloss to the 10-foot-high ceilings to produce a subtly reflective effect.
Wolf relied on a mix of elements to achieve a patina of age and sophistication. A selection of antique and vintage pieces gives the space some grounding, including a pair of Ethiopian chairs fit for a monarch; a collection of Indonesian tribal necklaces; a 19th-century French table and midcentury Swedish chairs; red, polished-lacquer Italian lamps from the 1950s; and a mahogany-and-rosewood table from Portugal. “It’s the juxtaposition of different periods that makes this modern space so visually beautiful,” says the designer.
Placed throughout the apartment are decorative objects—such as a wooden crocodile head from Mali and 16th-century Thai mirrors made of bronze—and large pieces of art that draw the eye: a ferocious,larger-than-life polar bear that greets visitors to the master bedroom; a panorama of a crashing surf; and a rural landscape eerily illuminated by an approaching storm.
The gray palette that defines the living and dining areas transitions to a soft combination of brown and taupe in the master bedroom. Wall- to-wall carpeting, a suede headboard and a polished-wool wallcovering absorb sound, giving the room the effect of a well-appointed cocoon. Its most distinctive feature is the ebonized oak case that Wolf designed to frame the headboard; it features a backlit, silver-leaf interior that lends the space a shimmering warmth.
After a tour of these interiors, quirky or not, there’s no doubt that Wolf was spot-on in advising his client to take the apartment, and no doubt that the designer has clearly mastered the art of the boomerang.