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urban apartment, architect on demand, advice without strings

I know this client since the 80-ies; he is my ex-husband. Actually, he is one of my biggest fans these days and talks about the great job I‘ve done remodeling and organizing his urban apartment when I am not there to hear it. He is a developer and has worked with plenty of architects over the years, but for his personal space, he chose to keep it “all in the family.” Surely, I would have his back. It’s funny how things work out.

At his previous place on the roof of the building where Alexander Calder’s descendants and the Libeskinds resided, he would have to eat standing up but lie down to watch television. Not a good plan. Finally, he acquired a penthouse in Williamsburg, a hipster area of Brooklyn, big enough to have a dining table, a sofa in the vicinity of the television set, and ample space to display his favorite things.

urban apartment, architect on demand

He loves to buy things. He has a lot of “objects.” From antique rugs, to Early Soviet decorative art, to Art Deco Tiffany silver. And it piles up. One of the challenges was to curate it, edit it down, and showcase pieces that enhance the space, not clutter it. The main objective was to create an infrastructure that keeps things in order. Actually, I love doing stuff like this. I even have created an ideaBOOK called Displaying and Organizing about dealing with my own collections.

Mainly, I set out to make his life easier. In addition to space planning skills, the project features my own urban style of interior design — built-in cabinetry, kitchen, and selection of finishes.

urban apartment, architect on demand

I reconfigured the existing floor plan to create a master bedroom suite. Thus, I was able to enlarge the master bathroom without disturbing the building’s plumbing. In addition, I opened up the third bedroom to create a library. Incorporating custom cabinetry throughout gave it consistency. Maintaining an open layout for the living room + dining + kitchen area, flanked by the terraces on either side, made the apartment feel very generous and expansive.

Here are the criteria I applied while organizing this urban apartment and all the pieces in it my client can’t live without:

urban apartment, architect on demand
1. Infuse with personal style

Every piece has its own story to tell and it reveals something about the collector. Clearly, he is not a minimalist. It was my responsibility to ensure that the objects telling the stories come together, that they are woven with each other to create a bigger picture, like chapters in a novel.

urban apartment, architect on demand
2. Balance / Seek out symmetry / Direct the eye

To organize a very eclectic collection of paintings my client has amassed on his travels, I enlisted the help of a modular hanging system. I thought it was perfect for this application because it afforded flexibility and effortless revision.

urban apartment, architect on demand
3. Orchestrate / Make it seem effortless

My client is very proud of his original 1905 Sitzmaschine Armchair by Josef Hoffmann. He has other rare vintage furnishings, including a side table by Frank Lloyd Wright. But this is his home, everything should be touched and used; it shouldn’t be too precious. After all, my goal was to make his life more comfortable. All of these pieces need to work together in the spirit of relaxed elegance.

urban apartment, architect on demand
4. Think in terms of categories, not rooms / Maintain consistency

There is way too much silver! Even though there are silver objects showcased in every nook and cranny, not all of it can be on display at once. While designing the cabinetry, I knew that the drawers should be incorporated ad nauseam. They build suspense hide things out of sight for a while.

urban apartment, architect on demand
5. Create a fluid composition / Allow to compare and contrast

 The Boffi kitchen faced with glass is very understated. Just like the rest of the cabinetry that acts as structure. It serves to bring into focus and frame the opulent objects all around. It lets your eye rest and adds a flavor of quiet sophistication. It’s just the right scale to give everything a fresh slant.

urban apartment, architect on demand


  • September 8, 2015

    Hola Alla!
    Thank you for the article. The apartment looks beautiful! Just like it is. You did such an amazing job.
    The pictures show very well the integration of the modern clean lines that you created and how they frame and show off the collections, keeping the place airy, elegant and ready for daily use.
    You do have a gifted mind, you should be reminded of that!!!!
    Hasta pronto,

    • September 9, 2015

      Thank you very much, Pilar! I value your opinion — you an expert at showcasing collections.

  • September 9, 2015

    Hi Alla

    That is a great post and the apartment looks amazing, congratulations! And thank you for the great Boffi kitchen images and for the mention. I have forwarded the article to our marketing/PR department in Italy.


    • September 9, 2015

      Thank you, Peter! Very glad that you are pleased with the way it turned out. Finally, I was able to work with Boffi!

  • September 11, 2015

    Hi Alla,

    Great post. – apt looks great too !

  • September 14, 2015

    I love it!
    I think you have a Great Taste!!!
    Best, Mikel

  • ghm.garo
    September 14, 2015


    The blog post is pretty amazing. Thank you for sharing.

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