Take one step inside the Manhattan loft of Alexandre de Betak and his wife, Sofía Sanchez de Betak, and you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. The epic social/entertaining space at the heart of the home—“living room” doesn’t begin to describe it—feels like a set for a Pina Bausch performance or some outré production of an Ionesco or Pirandello play. Among the dramatis personae are postmodern chairs by Peter Shire and Marinus A. Vljim, freestanding chain lamps by artist Franz West, pyramidal light sculptures by André Cazenave, and a Louis Durot seat in the form of a woman’s upturned torso and legs. There’s also a Vespa parked by one of the columns and a swing hanging from the ceiling. The mise-en-scène is redolent of drama and possibility.
Given the homeowners’ résumés, the eccentric milieu should come as no surprise. Alexandre built his reputation transgressing the boundaries between the worlds of fashion, art, and design. His namesake firm, Bureau Betak, has produced some of the most indelible fashion shows, events, and exhibitions of the past three decades—with the impresario himself taking on the roles of art director and designer. His Argentine-born wife, the former Sofía Sanchez Barrenechea, plotted her own trajectory through the beau monde as a high-profile art director, travel guru, and fashion maven. The couple’s 2014 wedding in Patagonia featured ushers sporting Darth Vader helmets and a giant blow-up of the Star Wars villain—a bit of cheeky pop culture to leaven the glamour of the bride’s Valentino couture gown and the resplendent natural beauty of the setting.
Playfulness and humor are clearly essential parts of the de Betak program. Witness the tatami room in their Manhattan loft, which includes three types of sake on tap, a video projector, and a hydraulic table that rises mysteriously from the floor for casual dining. Or the proliferation of vintage Japanese toys throughout the home. “I have a big family of robots. They’re my little friends, my little monsters,” Alexandre says of his long-time collecting obsession. For more adult divertissements, there’s a handy stripper pole in a hidden, mirror-paneled lounge where guests retire for postprandial high jinks. “You can’t build an apartment from scratch and not make a secret room,” Sofía explains matter-of-factly.