Utopus Transforms Apartment in a Selldorf Building
Raring to go, preparing for the renovation and expansion of a weekend house in East Hampton, New York, Utopus principal Javier Robles had already secured the permits for the addition and was working on the construction documents. Then the owners called with an unexpected question: Would he mind shifting gears, back to the city? Serious art collectors as well as exacting design clients, the couple had just gotten their hands on an apartment in a building by Interior Design Hall of Fame member Annabelle Selldorf, right in the Chelsea gallery district.
Floor-to-ceiling windows faced north, bringing in the soft, indirect light that’s preferable to the strong sun of a southern exposure when the preservation of art is a concern. And the 1,500-square-foot layout included the second bedroom the couple had longed for, making it possible to accommodate visiting family and friends. But the galley kitchen was cramped, and the developer finishes definitely had to go. When Robles arrived to inspect the place with his clients, their to-do list kept growing until, in the end, they decided to gut the whole thing and start over again. As the architect says, “It wasn’t up to their standards.”
Nine months later, it most definitely was. Doing away with the divider between the kitchen and the living-dining room opened everything up. Walls painted a very gallery-esque matte white serve as the backdrop for contemporary paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, and an equally stunning collection of mid-century furniture, much of it Brazilian, looks right at home on the stained-walnut floorboards.
The transformation is perhaps most dramatic in the bathrooms, reconfigured and reappointed. Merging the master bathroom with an adjacent closet and going all-out with the Calacatta gold marble—walls and floor, plus a single slab topping the double sink vanity—yielded a luxurious feel. “Almost like a Roman bath,” Robles says.
He’s switching to exposed concrete for the bathrooms in East Hampton. Yes, he’s back on the case. Groundbreaking for the addition takes place in October.