Latin Modern: Christopher Coleman Gives A Venezuelan Couple a NYC Pied-a-Terre
Multiple residences, admittedly a luxury, nevertheless have their drawbacks. Favorite belongings disappear in transit; doorknobs mysteriously materialize in unexpected places. Yes, dislocation can be tough, and New York can be even tougher, which is why most people prefer to come home to an environment that soothes the soul. Most people furthermore associate soothing qualities with neutral tones, but one thirtysomething Venezuelan couple clearly signaled a willingness to go beyond beige when they asked Christopher Coleman Interior Design to handle their pied-à-terre. At 2,250 square feet, it had to be a place that a family of five would be able to settle into happily when they visited from their much larger house in Caracas, which is coincidentally the former home of Christopher Coleman’s longtime partner, fashion designer Angel Sanchez.
Coleman’s portfolio is defined by bright color—lots of it—and he paints with broad brushstrokes wherever he can. That aesthetic isn’t entirely in lockstep with the couple’s. However, as collectors of Latin American 20th-century art, they were already accustomed to color in their milieu. Step into their Manhattan living area, and you can’t help but notice a large bright yellow T, actually a Hélio Oiticica acrylic on panel installed at a jaunty angle. Positioned right beneath, a curvy Edward Wormley chaise longue has upholstery in a paler yellow, a stealth accent amid what is, by Coleman’s standards, the rather subdued palette of the public space.
The ebonized flooring and textured silk wall covering tie in seamlessly with the character of the apartment building, a brand-new glass tower. A high ceiling adds to the sense that there is room to breathe here, the right balance of liveliness and ease. There’s no feeling of clutter despite the fact, Coleman points out, “There’s enough art to fill a museum.” It starts instantly, in the foyer, with Venezuelan artist Jesús Soto’s abstract mixed-media construction hanging above a console with antelope-delicate wooden legs, a Brazilian 1940’s design by Giuseppe Scapinelli. In the living area, a small bronze by Brazil’s Lygia Pape graces the travertine top of a drool-worthy Paul McCobb credenza.
Mid-century modern clearly holds court. Sharing space on the creamy white round rug, a Brazilian cocktail table from the 1950’s has a base in a jacaranda strikingly similar to the rosewood frames of a pair of Norwegian ’50s armchairs—a combination that’s less matchy-matchy than ah, perfect. Unfussy furnishings feel best in this setting, and tapering lines seem to be a theme. For a touch of the tropics, Coleman selected a Brazilian ’50’s dining table with caning on top, protected by a layer of glass.
Some furniture hugs the perimeter, of course, but other pieces float. “They make tight spaces feel more up-to-date,” he explains. A good example is the couple’s bed. It’s placed smack in the center of the master bedroom, a corner space but a challenging one-with windows on two sides, closets lining a third, and the fourth interrupted by the doorway from the corridor. (That’s where Coleman placed a George Nelson cabinet that is indeed wall-mounted.) Jens Risom designed the rosewood side tables sitting in the middle of the den. Here, Coleman was allowed to lacquer the doors on the built-in teak bookcase in cherry red.
The children’s realm is where Coleman the colorist let loose most. He romped through the two rooms, concocting a mix of function and sophistication. Walls in the daughter’s and twin sons’ rooms are covered in tangerine or bright blue patent leather, respectively. What fun. A polka-dotted duvet cover and pillow shams transform the daughter’s bed, while a bright green scooter sits in the corner. The sons’ two beds sport a more boyish patchwork pattern, and Coleman turned a blue vase into a whimsical bedside lamp. In rooms like these, a child can’t help but dream in Technicolor.
Photography by Adrian Wilson.