They brought a few pieces they cherished,” says interior designer Jesse Carrier of his clients’ existing and beloved furniture, including an oval Saarinen table, a mahogany four-poster bed by Carlton House, bergeres that were re-upholstered in linen, and an impressive art collection, colorful and bold. They also loved to travel, and wanted to express their ties to Italy. “Our challenge was to incorporate them and make them work within a more contemporary shell,” he says.
Prewar apartments are treasured for their historic details–not their outdated floor plans. So the residents called on architect Calvin Tsao and his colleague, Richard Rhodes, along with builder Rob Carpenter, to open up to space–“a process of decluttering,” says Carrier. High-polish plaster walls, sleek molding, and white-bronze metals reference 1930s New York and Milan, giving the architectural envelope a contemporary look with historic substance. Quoting Coco Chanel, Tsao says, “Elegance is refusal. We worked hard to edit down to essences.”
Carrier created a dialogue between old and new, formal and informal. He juxtaposed the French bergeres with a more casual braided-fiber rug by Doris Leslie Blau, and the Saarinen found a new home encircled by 1930s Jean-Michel Frank chairs snapped up at auction. It’s an example he says of “a design dynamic that works together in that setting. It’s very compelling.”