September 30, 2014

Fashion’s Tribe: Messana O’Rorke Gut Renovates Chelsea High-Rise Apartment

A sultry and windswept Brigitte Bardot, smoking a cigarillo in an oversize black-and-white portrait, guards the entry to Hans Dorsinville’s home. But the famous woman whose personal style informs this Chelsea apartment is someone else entirely: Donna Karan is not only a current client of Dorsinville’s fashion graphics and branding agency, Laird + Partners, but also a mentor and a former employer, having hired him straight out of the Parsons School of Design.

She’s furthermore his connection to Messana O’Rorke. A store for her was Brian Messana and Toby O’Rorke’s very first project after founding the firm. Long after that, they renovated a studio apartment for Dorsinville—one that he sold at a handsome profit, thanks to their white-on-white design.

He brought them back when he bought a 1,250-square-foot apartment downstairs in the exact same 1960’s high-rise. The architecture clearly wasn’t the attraction. “Hans loves the neighborhood,” Messana explains. A gut renovation ensued.

With the studio, Dorsinville recalls, “I just let Brian and Toby do their thing.” This time would be somewhat different. Dorsinville was looking to put his own stylish stamp on the interior, channeling global and local influences in addition to Karan.

The oak parquet, in a matte chocolate finish, is a typically French chevron pattern he fell in love with as an undergraduate at Parsons Paris. Closer to home, Halston’s legendary town house by Paul Rudolph suggested a monochrome palette for the apartment—though not an exact color. “That clean gray for the walls came from a seashell I found on Fire Island,” O’Rorke clarifies. The living area’s reading nook, with its built-in daybed, was inspired by the aesthetic of Tom Ford’s film, A Single Man.

But don’t forget Karan. She would dig the minimalism of the doors that close completely flush. Plus, the freestanding volume that anchors the reading nook is lacquered a deep, luminous black, repeating a finish Dorsinville originally admired in Karan’s private yoga studio.

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