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What it looks like when eight interior designers take over a Vogue office

Continue reading What it looks like when eight interior designers take over a Vogue office

Brandolini Makes A Bold Choice Mixing Pattern And Color

Designer Muriel Brandolini gives a classic New York apartment a colorfully modern makeover

Birds of a feather,” as the saying goes, “flock together.” But when opposites attract, the relationship can be downright electrifying. AD100 interior designer Muriel Brandolini—an ardent enthusiast of arresting colors and madcap patterns—couldn’t be more different in temperament from one of her longtime New York clients, a cerebral, business-minded woman who initially discovered Brandolini’s work in a magazine and picked up the telephone. “I’m a very analytical, linear thinker,” says the client, who asked the Manhattan-based decorator to revitalize an Upper West Side apartment she and her husband had bought a few years ago. “Muriel leads with passion and feeling. I wanted to ask questions, and she would just say, ‘It’s beautiful. I can’t tell you why it will work, but it will.’ ”

It’s beautiful. I can’t tell you why it will work, but it will.

The couple’s duplex apartment, on high floors in a handsome prewar redbrick building—boldface residents have included Harrison Ford and Georgina Bloomberg—boasted fantastic views and abundant light. Darkness, in fact, was the primary reason they vacated their previous Brandolini-designed apartment, which they had shared with their children for 15 years. But the rooms in the new place generally were small (except for the sprawling second-story master bedroom), and the coffered ceilings throughout, while classically elegant, were low. The clients considered undertaking a major renovation—to take down some walls and better reconfigure the spaces—but ultimately chose a more cosmetic approach. “The interiors were very traditional and not really our style—we prefer things more modern,” explains the wife, who, with her husband, has a strong collection of art, including works by Agnes Martin, Milton Avery, Fay Ray, and Caio Fonseca. “But we thought we could make it distinctive with Muriel.”

The  office / guest bedroom

A fabric by Harlequin covers an office/guest bedroom. Cork bed by City Joinery; custom pillows by Brenda Colling in Holland & Sherry corduroys; rug by Fedora Design.

Bold, eclectic interiors are the calling card of the designer, the daughter of a French-Venezuelan mother and a Vietnamese father. She was raised in Saigon and then on Martinique, studied fashion in Paris, and married a debonair Italian financier, Nuno Brandolini. She didn’t train to be a decorator, so she’s not beholden to some set formula about furniture placement or how high artworks should hang on a wall. She does, however, have a prescription for rooms lacking volume: “When a ceiling is low, if you don’t create busyness, you see misery.”

One thing decorator and client do have in common is an allergy to beige, monochromatic interiors. “My husband and I like things to be interesting and energetic. We like furniture and design that make you think,” says the wife. In her office/guest bedroom, one wall is covered in red felt, another in a large leaf-pattern print, and the bedspread is a busy stripe. Matchy-matchy it is not. The husband’s office features three different corduroy wall coverings, and the moldings have three shades of paint, while a lemon-yellow quilted wall cocoons that massive master bedroom. And forget about making the dining room’s four decorative columns, installed by previous owners, disappear by, say, painting them the same bronze color as the walls. Inspired by wood candlesticks she had seen in Sri Lanka, Brandolini had each column painstakingly hand-painted in stripes—every one a different width and hue. “If I didn’t go for it enough with color, she would say, ‘Go for it more,’ ” Brandolini recalls.

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 For the couple’s first apartment collaboration, the designer took her client to Milan to scour the design boutiques and vintage shops. “She wanted to see every inch of the city,” Brandolini remembers. “She was always, ‘What’s next? What’s next?’ ” This time around the women dug deeper, visiting warehouses and garages in Milan and Turin that held furnishings from 1900 through the midcentury that would eventually get scooped up by dealers. They weren’t shopping for expensive pieces, just ones with good bones—such as 1960s floor lamps, a 1950s French desk—amid the broken chair legs and frayed fabrics. “They’re common things that come from the grandmother, or an uncle who has passed,” Brandolini says. “Italy is so secret. I go to these dark, out-of-the-way warehouses and I wonder if I’m not going to be murdered,” she observes with a laugh.
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This Minimalist Manhattan Apartment Is Full Of Hidden Fun

For Alexandre and Sofía Sanchez de Betak, an old-school SoHo loft provides the perfect lab for creative living and unconventional style

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.

The Living room

Sofía in the main living area, wearing a Lingua Franca sweater, RE/DONE jeans, and Golden Goose sneakers. Alexandre wears a Save Khaki United shirt and Saint Laurent jeans.

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.

The fun continues in the bedrooms of Alexandre’s two teenage sons, Amael and Aidyn. One room is tucked discreetly in a loft space above the mirrored bar; when the kids are in residence, the stripper pole becomes more of a fireman’s pole, perfect for fast escapes. The other bedroom is constructed of metal scaffolding, Erector Set–style, with platform beds and an integrated desk below. “This was my dream when I was a kid,” Alexandre muses. As for the child he and Sofía are expecting, he says they’ve considered setting up a baby tent in the middle of the loft.

For gastronomic pleasures, Alexandre created the ultimate chef’s kitchen, centered on a monumental stainless-steel island that is the ne plus ultra of bespoke cookery. “The kitchen was custom fabricated, cabinet by cabinet, by a Chinese metalworking shop in Brooklyn. I spent a year with those guys, driving them nuts,” he recalls. Predictably, the couple enjoys entertaining, and the kitchen allows them to do so on a grand scale, whether that means cooking pasta for 100 for a book launch or making paella for a throng of fashion-forward guests.

But for all of its sybaritic bells and whistles, the apartment hews more closely to the rough-and-ready SoHo artists’ dwellings of the 1960s and ’70s than it does to today’s so-called luxury lofts. The deliberately unfussy materials palette includes weathered floorboards reclaimed from an upstate New York barn; cabinetry of brushed oak with linen-backed copper grilles; and stainless steel for a dash of early-1980s high-tech realness. Pipes and radiators are largely left exposed, as are the original wood columns and beams. The layout of the space has a similarly old-school loft vibe, particularly in the open-plan core, where one could easily picture the mandarins of Abstract Expressionism performing their alchemy on heroically scaled canvases.

We wanted to respect the history of this place and not try to make it something that it isn’t

“We wanted to respect the history of this place and not try to make it something that it isn’t,” Alexandre says. “The huge room is incredibly versatile, not just for entertaining but also for mounting installations and playing around with different elements from the shows I design. It’s the kind of space that begs for creative experimentation.”

Which brings us back to the swing dangling from the ceiling between the living and kitchen areas. For this whimsical amenity, Sofía has a perfectly rational explanation: “It’s very important to have a swing nearby when you feel like swinging.”

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