Update: A Philadelphia Interior Design Project Enters the Homestretch

Flipped through the May issue of Philadelphia Style yet? Not to brag, but I’m featured in its Philadelphia Faces of Design portfolio (page 137).

I’m humbled to be among such esteemed company in a magazine that I respect greatly. Thank you.

In honor of the occasion, I thought I’d update you on a Philadelphia interior design project that’s entering the homestretch. When we last left our bachelor’s apartment at the Ritz-Carlton in Center City, the wall coverings had just gone up. They were the first meaningful strides we took toward our bold, modern aesthetic.

I used fabrics usually associated with clothing—linen, wool, suede—much of them lined with pinstripes of various gauges. Basically, I dressed his walls in some beautifully tailored suits, which made the installation more like a fitting.

If that wasn’t dramatic enough, I divided the apartment into two distinct halves. The front, where the foyer, living room, and kitchen reside, is all black. The back half of the apartment—the master bedroom and bathroom—is almost all-white. I may also incorporate some navy by way of the bedspread to play off the navy pinstripes in the wall coverings. And all of the metal details will be silver.

My concept for this particular Philadelphia interior design project was inspired by a single piece of pre-existing furniture: a black-lacquered, art-deco credenza. The homeowner wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted for his apartment, but he knew he loved that credenza. I did, too. So we went from there.

Let’s talk about the bedroom
His taste inspired the modernism, but the apartment itself inspired the design for the bed in the master bedroom. Apartment living, even at the Ritz-Carlton, requires a certain amount of efficiency. So I created a bed that’s more than meets the eye.

I upholstered the entire stretch behind the bed, from one corner of the room to another, which created the effect of a paneled leather wall. It may not seem like a big difference from a headboard, but it feels like there’s one less bulky piece of furniture in the room. Beside the headboard, it also spared us from some light fixtures because I installed lighting within the panel to up-light the wall behind it.

But the most unique feature is a secretary desk that’s built into the panel on one side of the bed. A discreet door flips down and exposes a surprisingly large workstation with enough room for a widescreen desktop monitor.

If you work from home on occasion, or even just need a space to tend to some personal bookkeeping, you’d be surprised with how little space you actually need when take a couple of moments to think it through. The necessary tech is about the size of a magazine, so you can’t blame that for your garish makeshift office in the corner of the kitchen. And there’s no reason to keep the few paper files you need in plain sight. There’s no reason to keep any of it in plain sight, actually. Streamline.

That frees up more room for things that you and your guests want to see, like the mirrored Gueridon round-table and the two-drawer, marble-top, art-deco chest from France I added to the master bedroom last week. The demilune chest features a scalloped face finished in silver leaf. It’s the kind of piece that immediately elevates a room and only grows more interesting the more you study it.

The installation of the art finished off the bedroom. I placed a single large photograph over the bed. And the opposing wall features a block of four three-foot by three-foot prints. Together, they act like a giant exclamation mark for the bedroom’s brash design.

Filling in the missing pieces
As I write this, much of the living room furniture, by way of the Netherlands, is going in, including a marble and chrome coffee table that looks like it belong in the Tiffany & Co. Atlas collection. The sofa is flanked by chrome side table and a black-lacquered bar by the French designer Jacques Garcia.

Opposite from the sofa, a custom-crafted Madagascar chest (pictured) conceals an electric keyboard. (The homeowner plays.) I placed a chrome étagère on each side and art deco consoles and drink tables throughout the open spaces around the remainder of the living room.

Still to come: a pair of upholstered, art-deco chairs, a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair, some Murano lamps, a few pieces of artwork, and a bit of accessorizing.

Having such a minimal palette with this Philadelphia interior design project would seem to allow many of the other elements to fall into place a little more easily. But the opposite is true in most instances. The homeowner and I recently made the final decisions on the last batches of accessories—mirrors, lamps, and a couple of custom-made area rugs from Beatrice & Martin that proved trickier to design than I anticipated.

The challenge comes in creating nuance and having it all appear to be harmonious. The last think you want in a room that’s all-white is a pure-white sofa that’s surrounded by a bunch of things that look like they’re supposed to match exactly, but, instead, they’re a shade too light or four shades too dark. (Just as bad is if you did manage to match that sofa.) But if you can establish a spectrum of slight gradations, it’ll create depth and texture.

For one of those rugs, we went with four different creams accented by a bit of silver. The contrast will come not through the colors—there’s not enough difference among them to create much separation—but through the materials, wool and silk.

Seeing an interior design come to fruition, especially one this extensive, where we touched every surface and corner of the apartment, is always a bittersweet moment. There are turns in every project that force you to wonder how you’re going to find your way to the other side, and this one certainly wasn’t short on them. But the result is even more overwhelming. Something that lived inside my head for several months, sometimes even longer, is now right in front of me, in full view. And I can’t help but feel, when I walk out the door for the last time, that a small piece of me will stay behind.