An Interior Designer Creates a Sea of Tranquillity in Greenwich Village

In his compact walk-up, Nicholas Obeid combines objects of his own design and flea-market finds to create an escape from the city below.

Article by Nick Marino

Greenwich Village_Interiors_1In the living room of the interior designer Nicholas Obeid’s Greenwich Village apartment, a Jean-Michel Frank-style sofa upholstered in bay leaf-coloured mohair with Pierre Frey jacquard pillows, a vintage wrought-iron lamp with a brown-paper shade, a custom Equis table in iron, glass and natural leather from Casamidy in Mexico and a T-back chair with button-tufted linen cushions. Photograph by David Chow.

Five years ago, at the San Telmo flea market in Buenos Aires, the New York-based interior designer Nicholas Obeid saw a midcentury chandelier in perforated red metal that he admired but didn’t want to carry home on the plane.

A year later, he was still thinking about that chandelier and, on his next trip, he was surprised to find the $100 piece right where he’d last seen it. (Obeid’s mother was born in Argentina, and he visits the country whenever he can.) Now rewired, it hangs in the kitchen of his Greenwich Village apartment, above a stainless steel baker’s rack. “I saw something similar on 1stDibs for thousands of dollars,” Obeid says. “Almost identical.”

The fixture is emblematic of Obeid’s approach: the designer, who’s in his 30s, scours the globe — in person and online — for deals on well-made, unconventional vintage pieces. (“The objects I’m after have spirit,” he says.) He then juxtaposes them with idiosyncratic furnishings in a variety of heavily textured materials (“silk, mohair, metal, glass, leather, wood, more wood, a different shade of wood, marble, shearling”, as he puts it), within his own 53-square-metre apartment and those of his clients. Over the past five years, he’s also designed dozens of his own pieces, reimagining everything from sprawling leather modular sofas to cement side tables to ebonised oak lamps and brass wall sconces.

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A painting by George Bodis, a marble table lamp by Henry Wilson from Radnor and a vintage credenza. Photograph by David Chow.

Often, he conceives of these while working out of his rental, which he moved into in 2020 and has since transformed into a calming refuge. Located on the third floor of a walk-up apartment block, above the poster shops and piercing parlours that fill the blocks just south of NYU, the compact space — the kitchen serves as a vestibule for the bedroom and living room — is united by a colour scheme of butter and walnut. In the bedroom, there’s a whitewashed bespoke night stand made from bleached acacia wood. Above it hangs a framed 1975 charcoal drawing by the San Francisco Bay Area artist Laura Lengyel, the matting of which he had cut to mimic the lines of the tubular task lamp beneath it — another Buenos Aires find. The ivory-painted wall opposite the low, minimalist bed is blank. “My mind races,” Obeid says. “I need serenity.”

That sense of tranquillity extends to the seven-by-four-metre terrace stretching the length of the apartment. There’s enough room for a dining table, which he often drapes in olive green linen and, near it, a sitting area with vintage wicker hoop chairs where he starts his day with coffee, he says, “reading in the dead quiet with the sun hitting me”.

Obeid grew up in Troy, Michigan, where his father, a trauma surgeon, had emigrated from Syria for a medical residency. The designer recalls spending Sunday brunches — when his aunts, uncles and cousins would gather in his home for eggs and manousheh — immersed in design magazines and sharing his discoveries. 

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In the living room, a charcoal drawing by George D’Amato hangs over a table of honed Calacatta turquoise marble and white oak that Obeid designed. The chair with leather-wrapped arms is vintage Alvar Aalto, and the stool upholstered in green shearling is by Umberto Bellardi Ricci from Love House. Photograph by David Chow.

After college at Michigan State University, Obeid turned a summer internship at the New York office of the potter and designer Jonathan Adler into a full-time job, in which he ran the creative services department and produced photo shoots. He stayed there for seven years; during his off hours, he created spaces for friends and family, before starting his own firm in 2018. The following year, he began working with CB2, which has since released more than 40 pieces of his furniture, lighting and objects.

Increasingly, his home has become a showcase for these works, too, positioned alongside his custom furnishings (a coverlet made from two different linens, one by the nearly 150-year-old Spanish textile house Gastón y Daniela) and vintage finds (the rattan settee on the terrace, which he found at a Michigan flea market during the pandemic). Every piece, he says, has meaning. “When you love your home, you are obviously happier,” he adds. “You can go about your life with clarity and confidence.”

A Los Angeles Home That Channels the Magic of ‘Fantasia’

Inspired by the property’s famous former owner, the designer Frances Merrill infused a house in West Hollywood with nods to cinema history and midcentury diners.

Article by Max Berlinger

18-TMAG-LA-FANTASIA-HOME-1The entryway of a Los Angeles home reimagined for the actor Anastasia Graff by the designer Frances Merrill. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Crimson Red, the vintage ceiling light is from Silvio Piattelli and the banquette is upholstered in Dedar fabric. Photograph by Joyce Kim.

By her own admission, the actor Anastasia Graff is a maximalist who loves “girlie things,” so it’s not altogether surprising that she wanted a periwinkle kitchen for her 1930s-era West Hollywood home. Still, such a bold choice could send some interior designers into a tailspin. “It’s rare,” admits Frances Merrill, who Graff enlisted to refurbish the 2,600-square-foot house, “that you have a client pushing you to be more colorful.” Since founding her firm, Reath Design, in 2009, she has become known for her elegant use of unexpected palettes and patterns. And so, “when she said purple,” Merrill continues, “I was like, ‘Hell yeah.’”

From the outside, the two-story three-bedroom house, set in the hills just above Sunset Boulevard, is more restrained than flamboyant. Clad in white-painted wood siding with a wide porch, it had appealed to Graff because it reminded her of the traditional wooden homes on the East Coast, where she grew up. But it didn’t hurt that the place is part of local lore: It once belonged to the Russian-born composer and conductor Igor Stravinsky, who lived in Los Angeles from 1940 to 1969, while he conducted the L.A. Philharmonic both downtown and at the Hollywood Bowl. During that time, he also made inroads in the film industry, notably allowing his 1913 masterpiece, “The Rite of Spring,” to be used in the 1940 animated Disney feature “Fantasia” — a history that inspired Merrill to decorate the home with alternating notes of gravitas and whimsy. “You realize in Los Angeles, there’s a story behind every house,” says Graff. “That’s how they sell you. They’re like, ‘Marilyn Monroe’s ghost walks the property!’”

In the living room, a Tom Wesselmann painting, at left, and a Bert Stern photograph flank a pair of couches and Sabine Marcelis coffee tables. At right is a Fratelli Levaggi chair. Photograph by Joyce Kim.
In the kitchen, custom cabinetry by Andres Ariza of MXA Development, painted in Benjamin Moore’s Wishing Well. Photograph by Joyce Kim.
A vintage VeArt Murano glass pendant light hangs above a built-in banquette. Photograph by Joyce Kim.

Graff had long been saving images with a view to one day create her dream home and sent them to Merrill for inspiration. There were pictures of classic American diners and screenshots of Slim Aarons’s louche, glamorous photographs. She also cited the work of the print-loving American decorator Dorothy Draper and of the designer David Hicks, a master of British eclecticism. Graff wanted to avoid the austerity of the many white modernist boxes that populate Los Angeles and instead lean into the grandeur of old Hollywood design — a vision that naturally aligned with Merrill’s preferences for saturated colours and lively juxtapositions. When the pair’s collaboration began, during the early days of the pandemic, “it was like having a pen pal,” says Graff, to whom Merrill would send packages of paint swatches in the mail.

In the dining room, a painting by Hilo Chen, a Gustaf Westman table, India Mahdavi chairs and vintage mirrored sconces. The wallpaper is by Zuber. Photograph by Joyce Kim.
A small powder room features Pierre Frey panther-print wallpaper and a vintage mirror under a brass sconce by Paavo Tynell for Gubi. Photograph by Joyce Kim.

In the kitchen, Merrill manifested the purple Graff had requested in the form of mauve cabinets with softly rounded corners that suggest both the glossy futurism and laminated lunch counters of the 1950s — an effect heightened by a scalloped stainless-steel oven hood. Their color is offset by a traditional checkerboard linoleum floor and an orange leather banquette where the family share their meals (Graff and her husband have two young children). Vintage lights, one shaped like an orange and another like a lemon, add some California kitsch, and a 1970s-era poster for the French release of “Fantasia” is a tribute to Stravinsky.

Graff and Merrill also found common ground in their shared love of wallpaper, choosing a dense floral pattern — pulled from the archives of the 226-year-old French company Zuber — for the dining room, and a Pierre Frey panther print for the powder room. “But we wanted the house to be coherent, and not go too crazy on the eye,” Graff says. So, in the former room, the busy motif is tempered by the streamlined silhouette of an oval lacquered wood table by the Swedish architect turned designer Gustaf Westman. That table is, however, bubble gum pink — “like Barbie in space,” she says.

In the primary bedroom, which is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Tissue Pink, a custom Reath Design bed frame upholstered in Holland & Sherry fabric. Photograph by Joyce Kim.
A vintage Murano glass pendant light hangs in the adjoining dressing room. Photograph by Joyce Kim.

Jewel-box shades of purple and pink are another through line. There’s the hyper-feminine, almost camp, salmon pink closet and dressing room just off the primary bedroom, where a Murano glass pendant in the shape of a heart — a light fixture fit for a Disney princess — hangs above an island with a scarlet crystal quartzite countertop. Directly adjoining is the primary bathroom, which contains a free-standing porcelain tub and a shower lined with amethyst purple tiles. And downstairs, the main foyer is a moody shade of rosé pink complemented by a banquette upholstered in a striped coral pink Dedar textile.

In the primary bathroom, Merrill added a skylight above the shower to accentuate the different tones of the purple B&W tiles. Photograph by Joyce Kim.

But Graff’s favorite space, the family room, is — at least in contrast to the rest of the house — relatively subdued, a reprieve from all the ebullience. A hand-painted silk de Gournay wallpaper in a tranquil shade of pistachio is illuminated by an Eos ceiling lamp that resembles a fluffy orb of exploding feathers. And while there are a few other florid gestures — including a chair with a daisy-shaped back by the London- and Milan-based Artefatto Design Studio — the room was designed with relaxation in mind, its layout centered on a pair of custom shell pink velvet couches, placed back to back. “It’s just a soothing and beautiful space,” Graff says.

For Merrill, though, an arrangement of subtly contrasting pieces in the living room best represents the lush, collagelike feeling of the house. Between two windows stands a vibrantly colorful Fratelli Levaggi chair — a reproduction of a classic 1950s turned-leg style that Merrill had repainted in vivid shades of cornflower blue, marigold and Kelly green — beneath an angular modern dark green glass sconce. Just as Los Angeles’s mishmash of architectural eras results in moments of unexpected beauty, the home’s clash of periods and styles is somehow harmonious — and, most of all, joyful. It’s a wide-ranging approach to design that Hollywood has long shared. Indeed, not long after the house was finished, Merrill and Graff caught word of the traveling exhibition “Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts,” which charted the animator’s little-known obsession with Rococo French design and how it influenced the look of everything from his cartoons to his theme parks. “When we saw that,” she says, “we were like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what we were doing!’”

In the British Countryside, a Home That Was Once an Ice Cream Factory

The designers behind the furniture and lighting studio Pinch have transformed part of a onetime dairy farm in southwest England into a layered, lushly landscaped retreat.

Article by Ellie Pithers

21-TMAG-ICE-CREAM-HOME-2In the library of Russell Pinch and Oona Bannon’s home in Devon, England, a table, folding stools and pendant light of their own design. Photograph by Andrea Urbez.

When the British designer Russell Pinch was 22, he spent a night at Sarabhai House, a Modernist villa designed by the Swiss French architect Le Corbusier and set within a 20-acre park in Ahmedabad, India. Completed in 1955, the otherwise severe brick, concrete and plaster building has a 46-foot-long concrete slide that leads from a first-floor terrace to the swimming pool below. Pinch, then on his first trip abroad and employed as an assistant to the British designer Terence Conran, a friend of the Sarabhai family, was enthralled. “The Indian textiles and carpets layered on top of a concrete masterpiece, with a jungle outside — I was blown away,” he recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘I want to live in a house like this one day.’ ”

Pinch, now 50, has as good as realised that dream with his latest project: a former ice cream factory in southwest England that he has reimagined with his wife and business partner, Oona Bannon, 50, as a richly textured, midcentury-inflected weekend house for their family. Set in a lush valley in Devon, a county known for both its untamed moors and its traditional afternoon teas, the home embodies the elegance and warmth of Pinch, the furniture and lighting firm the couple co-founded in 2004. Drawing on the minimalist shapes of Scandinavian and Georgian-era British design and using traditional, long-lasting materials, the company creates timeless, unpretentious pieces: a slim-legged black walnut version of an 18th-century English cricket table; a hand-sprung sofa with dainty oak feet and rolled arms.

In the double-height living room, a Hungarian tapestry sourced from the British gallery 8 Holland Street hangs above a Pinch sofa. Photograph Andrea Urbez.
The house is arranged around a central Japanese-inspired courtyard shaded by an amelanchier tree. Photograph by Andrea Urbez.
Pinch, left, and Bannon, beside a velvet-upholstered Pinch sofa in the living room. Photograph by Andrea Urbez.

The house in Devon similarly balances crisp forms, simple materials and the occasional more luxurious touch. Pinch discovered the listing for the property in 2013. The lot came with a dilapidated cob barn and the rights to build a house; it was one of three parcels of land being portioned off by an enterprising dairy farmer who had recently sold his ice cream business and engaged the British architect David Kohn to propose designs for converting several now-disused buildings into a residential community. Their interest piqued, Pinch and Bannon went to see the place, only to be told an offer had already been accepted. During the four-hour drive back to their terraced Victorian home in South London, which they share with their two daughters, Ada, 15, and Floris, 14, they convinced each other that it would have been too onerous an undertaking anyway — and in a location that was too far to travel to for weekends. But several days later they received a phone call: the farmer felt hopeful the couple would respect his vision and invited them to make a competing offer. “We looked at each other and said, ‘Yes, please,’” recalls Pinch.

After two years of exchanging ideas with Kohn, what emerged was a plan for a 2,400-square-foot four-bedroom house arranged in a U shape around a central, Japanese-inspired courtyard. One side would incorporate the old barn — thought to date to around 1600 and the erstwhile home of the ice cream factory — and would accommodate two bedrooms. The new elements, containing an open-plan living area and two more bedrooms, would be clad with local red stone and inset with outsize concrete-framed windows providing uninterrupted views of the surrounding farmland. The roof and chimney would be outlined in reclaimed red bricks. For the floors, stairs, shelving and cabinetry, Pinch and Bannon chose honey-coloured planks of lightly bleached Douglas fir, which they ordered from the Danish manufacturer Dinesen and mostly installed themselves. “It was like the worst jigsaw puzzle of your life,” says Pinch. “And it’s actually a softwood, which I wouldn’t recommend to a customer. But we like the patina and big knots, which give it such character.”

In the kitchen, Douglas fir cabinets and shelves are filled with local pottery and flea market finds. Photograph by Andrea Urbez.

By 2019, the couple had furnished a few rooms provisionally — with prototype furniture from their London shop, which had opened earlier that year, and secondhand pieces sourced from antiques stores in the nearby town of Ashburton. They began escaping there every other weekend, despite their initial concern about the distance from London. “We really needed to be in here to understand how we wanted it to feel,” says Bannon. But one night in November, when the house was nearly finished, the couple were woken by a loud crack. Heavy rain had caused a flash flood, and not only was their kitchen under several feet of water but the poured concrete floor had risen up and buckled, leaving the dining table touching the ceiling light. Pinch and Bannon spent the next few weeks trying to drain the property. By the following March, Britain had entered the first of its Covid lockdowns, during which the project’s original builders filed for bankruptcy.

In the aftermath of this upheaval, Pinch and Bannon returned, for reassurance, to a small balsa-wood maquette of the home that Pinch had made during the planning phase. “It was symbolic of our intention,” says Bannon. “It was always about the promise of something in the future, not about instant gratification.” And so even when a surveyor, assessing the wreckage, jokingly suggested that the couple turn the kitchen into a swimming pool, they were undeterred. They laid a complex new system of pumps beneath the kitchen, repoured the floor and slowly began to put their house back together. “We were so involved in it, we couldn’t let it fail,” says Pinch. “It was more than just a house.”

A large horizontal pivot window floods the primary bedroom with early-morning light. Photograph by Andrea Urbez.
Also in the primary bedroom, a print by the British artist Ben Nicholson and a prototype of Pinch’s Avery armchair. Photograph by Andrea Urbez.
A painting by the Polish Swedish artist Agnieszka Barlow hangs in the main bathroom. Photograph by Andrea Urbez.

Today, visitors reach the home via a flagstone path that bisects the property’s abundant kitchen garden — planted with cabbage, fennel and broccoli — and leads to its stainless-steel front door, a nod to the site’s agricultural past. With expansive panels of glass connecting the various structures to each other and to the garden beyond, the building is a dramatic exploration of perspective. In addition to the Sarabhai House, which inspired the home’s concrete floors and geometric forms, Pinch and Bannon took cues from Turn End, a 1960s modernist house in southeast England designed by the British architect Peter Aldington. Characterised by unadorned interior spaces and teeming exterior ones, that building convinced the couple to keep the cinder-block walls of their own home’s new additions exposed, to install giant windows and to cultivate a riotous garden. “It’s all about the views,” says Oona. “From every room, you have a real experience of things growing.”

The combination of concrete and glass could be austere, but the couple have softened the effect with sheepskin-strewn velvet sofas, rush matting and shelves filled with Japanese earthenware and potted Chinese money plants, creating a space that feels welcoming and deeply personal. The furniture is mostly of their own design, though there is the odd vintage piece, including a 1950s Rex chair by the Slovenian designer Niko Kralj, a French flea market find that now sits in the living room. Hanging from a kitchen wall are woven baskets from Greece, and above the dining table and in the upstairs bathroom are colorful abstract paintings by the Polish Swedish artist Agnieszka Barlow, a friend of the couple’s, purchased from an exhibition of her work at the Pinch store in London.

The wildflower meadow at the back of the house is planted with achillea, cow parsley and sea holly, among other plants. Photograph by Andrea Urbez.

From the old barn, whose bedrooms are occupied by the couple’s daughters, a wide windowed corridor leads past the central courtyard to the main open-plan living space. Down a couple of steps, a library and seating area with a dramatic high ceiling and recessed fireplace give on to a sunken kitchen and dining room where, in late May, golden light streams through a continuous band of windows, offering views over a one-acre wildflower meadow that slopes upward from the back of the house. In the upstairs bedrooms and bathroom, picture windows frame the woodland and fruit orchard beyond. The couple worked with the British landscape architect James Hamilton on their plans for the grounds, establishing almost 3,000 plants and more than 500 trees, including sessile oaks, field maples, goat willows, walnuts and bird cherries.

Spending vacations and long weekends at the house has introduced a gentler, more freewheeling spirit to the couple’s professional output. Their company’s round yew Roden table, one of which anchors the home’s Douglas fir-clad library, has a chunkier profile than most of Pinch’s pieces and was designed with that room in mind, as was the large, globe-shaped, plant-fibre Soren lantern that hangs above it. Pinch and Bannon describe their house as “kind” and “gentle,” and the slower pace of life it invites, with its intimate corners for reading and daydreaming, feels soothing. Days here begin with walks to a nearby cove for a swim, followed by a seafood lunch on the raised terrace, and end with drowsy evening soaks in the cast-iron roll-top bath. “Time,” says Bannon, “takes on a funny quality here.”

A Paris Apartment With Boxer-Brief Bedding and Rugs Made From Socks

There wasn’t a style that reflected his approach to design. So Harry Nuriev made up his own.

Article by Nick Haramis

23-TMAG-BOXER-BRIEF-BEDDING-2Harry Nuriev, left, and his partner, Tyler Billinger, the C.E.O. of Nuriev’s design firm, Crosby Studios, in the living room of their 18th-century apartment in Paris’s Sixth Arrondissement. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.

In 1900, about a month before dying, Oscar Wilde is rumored to have looked around his accommodations at the Hôtel d’Alsace, the derelict Parisian pension house where he spent his final days, and said, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” More than 120 years later, another flamboyant expat found himself on rue des Beaux-Arts at an only slightly less dire impasse.

In December 2021, the Russian-born architect and furniture designer Harry Nuriev relocated from New York, where he’d lived since 2017, to Paris in search of inspiration. Although the plan was to find an airy loft on the right bank, he and his partner, Tyler Billinger, 27, a former fashion publicist and the C.E.O. of Nuriev’s design firm, Crosby Studios, opted instead for a 1,200-square-foot rental apartment across the Seine in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Each room in the 18th-century home had been painted the same emotionless hue. “I want to say it was pistachio beige?” says Nuriev, 38, disdainfully, while seated on a Barbie-pink camping stool in his so-called capsule kitchen. The steel-framed, glass-walled structure is about one-third the size of the former dining room it occupies and conjures the set of a sci-fi movie, or perhaps an RV on Mars.

But instead of covering every wall with glossy gray tiles, as the couple had done in their ultramodern one-bedroom NoLIta duplex, Nuriev chose to embrace the storied romance of his adoptive city, creating ashen, trompe l’oeil wallpaper with a crumbling, fungal motif and pasting it up in multiple rooms. “I want to keep the whole heritage and embrace it, but I also have my own ideas and I didn’t want them to kill each other,” says the designer, whose first Paris solo show, “Denim,” which opened at Carpenters Workshop gallery earlier this month, includes objects — a weight-training bench, a turntable — wrapped entirely in the rugged fabric.

Nuriev grew up in the agricultural city of Stavropol, in southwestern Russia, the eldest of three children raised by a handyman father and a homemaker mother. As a child, he enjoyed rearranging his grandmother’s furniture but, he says, interior design always sounded to him like a preoccupation for “housewives from the Upper East Side.” Though he was interested in experimental fashion — “as a professional passenger,” he clarifies, meaning that he preferred buying clothes to making them — he ultimately enrolled at the Moscow Architectural Institute. It wasn’t until he founded Crosby Studios in 2014, just after graduating, that he began actively questioning why a credenza should be any less expressive than a cardigan — or, as he puts it, “How people could put on a conceptual gown and sit on a brown couch. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

In the office, a denim pouf and desk chair by Nuriev and miniature stools from the designer’s Video Game collection. Photography by Laurent Kronental.
Nuriev added wallpaper with a bitmap print to complement his Video Game stools, which evoke the lo-fi quality of classic arcade cabinets. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.
Nuriev’s Pool Sofa — a transparent-vinyl-wrapped sectional packed with his and Billinger’s old clothes — takes up nearly the entire living room. On the mantel above the fireplace, the wooden frame of an antique mirror has been replaced with discarded keyboards Nuriev found on a sidewalk near his home. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.

As part of his mission to translate the language of clothing into interior design, Nuriev has created immersive and Instagrammable interiors — a digital environment for Valentino, a physical retail space for Paris’s Dover Street Little Market — often with just one bold color (neon blue, say, or electric green). In 2019, his Balenciaga sofa, an L-shaped couch stuffed with an array of the luxury house’s deadstock garments and wrapped in clear biodegradable film, became the talk of the Design Miami fair. At last year’s iteration, he debuted the Trash Bag sofa, a cluster of 15 glossy, foam-filled leather cushions, piled together as if awaiting a garbage truck on collection day, and a challenge to the sometimes-stodgy world of luxury design.

Since releasing his debut collection of geometric chairs and totemic shelves —  some in powder-coated stainless steel, others in brass — during New York design week in 2016, Nuriev has been described variously as a retrofuturist, a minimalist and a surrealist. Dissatisfied with these incomplete articulations of his artistic approach (or as he refers to it, his ongoing disagreement with reality), he made up a label of his own: transformism. “It comes from the idea of one thing transforming into something else,” he says. “But I don’t want to call it upcycling or recycling. Upcycling is just a technique — not a style. [My practice] comes from finding beauty somewhere no one wants to look.” For every piece of his inspired by fashion or art, there’s another that owes its existence to the everyday allure of a motor home, an Amazon delivery box, a headlight, a running shoe or a fax machine.

Throughout the apartment, trompe l’oeil wallpaper gives the impression of mold. In the dining room, a pink folding stool, a denim dining table and poufs, a carpet made of stitched-together socks and a row of mirrors featuring repurposed computer monitors, all by Nuriev. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.
The kitchen hovers above the original parquet flooring in a glass-walled, stainless-steel frame, illuminated by a ceiling-mounted light box. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.

More than once during our conversation, Nuriev compares his new neighborhood in Paris’s Sixth Arrondissement to an Hermès Birkin bag: sophisticated yet traditional. “There are a lot of old ladies with little dogs,” says Billinger, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. “And we’re wild,” adds Nuriev, who on this October afternoon is wearing a floor-length skirt, a midriff-baring wool sweater and a bandanna — all black — with gloopy acrylic pearls covering his nails. “Only yesterday I was walking in my heels and my crocodile dress, and they were like, ‘Ugh, fashion people.’”

To mitigate the shock of their arrival, Billinger and Nuriev decided to leave the apartment’s frame and parquet flooring alone. In fact, their engagement with the space is closer to an intervention than a renovation. Even the most disruptive elements — the glass-walled kitchen; a corridor to the bathroom wrapped entirely in denim — are temporary, capable of being easily broken down or torn off.

In the apartment’s former foyer is a refrigerator that Nuriev hand-painted with flowers and turned into a dresser. Nearby are his Video Game stool and a floor lamp made from discarded mobile phones. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.
Nuriev was inspired to create his RV-like kitchen after watching “Nomadland,” the 2020 film about a 60-something woman who moves into a van during the Great Recession. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.

To the right of the entrance, in what was once the foyer, the couple’s bed can be found in another aseptic stainless-steel box. (The structure was manufactured in pieces and assembled in place.) The bed’s duvet cover and pillowcases, all made from a patchwork of worn underwear — “Mine,” Nuriev clarifies — offer a cheeky reminder that beds are for more than just sleeping. Nearby, a reclaimed refrigerator has been painted with blue flowers and reborn as a cabinet. Antiquated iPhones line a wall, their screens replaced with functional, albeit tiny, mirrors.

If the apartment is a laboratory for experimentation (it’s where the designer dreams up most of his creations), it’s also the experiment itself: Nuriev and Billinger both live here full time, among the former’s prototypes, constantly tweaking things like height and polish to make sure each object achieves Nuriev’s idea of perfection. A doorway connects the bedroom to the heart of the residence: a spacious dining atrium with a monumental square table and stools upholstered in distressed denim, a material that, according to Nuriev, “isn’t supposed to be in interior design.” That, of course, is its appeal. Stitched-together socks in a rainbow of colors form a rug that runs the length of the room.

A duvet cover made from underwear. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.
Mobile phones reborn as tiny mirrors line the wall at the foot of the couple’s bed. Photograph by Laurent Kronental.
About his experiments in upcycling, a style he calls “transformism,” Nuriev says, “[My practice] comes from finding beauty somewhere no one wants to look.” Photography by Laurent Kronental.

In the office, also off the dining room, Nuriev’s silvery wallpaper with a bitmap print matches pink stools, pixelated at the edges and evoking the lo-fi quality of classic arcade cabinets, from his recent Video Game collection. Images relating to his various projects, many of them created for realities other than our own, are tacked above a shiny pink lacquered desk: One shows a brick-and-mortar clothing store in downtown Manhattan, conceived with the augmented reality fashion platform ZERO10, which sold NFTs by Nuriev depicting disappearing pants and shirts made of light; another includes a virtual circular sofa created from Nike puffer jackets. Next month, Rizzoli will publish Nuriev’s first monograph, “How to Land in the Metaverse: From Interior Design to the Future of Design,” which documents, among other things, his ongoing investigation into the digital realm.

Off the dining room, a living area is taken up almost entirely by a transparent-vinyl-wrapped sectional packed with the couple’s discarded clothes. (“I can’t remember sitting in a normal chair,” says Billinger.) Above a fireplace, computer keyboards Nuriev rescued from Paris sidewalks border an antique mirror that came with the apartment. “Think about how many disappointed emails were typed on those,” he says. “Thanks to them, I don’t have to look at an ugly wooden frame.”

In a corner of the room, tucked into a recess in the wall, is a roughly 35-by-24 inch maquette of the apartment that Nuriev built as he was reimagining the space. Almost everything is represented — there are pocket-size versions of the denim dining table, pink camping stools and sofa — except the home’s residents. “I have one goal,” says Nuriev. “Even if I’m not here, I want you to walk in and say, ‘This is very Harry.’”

In Italy, a Home With Renaissance Frescoes and a Giant Mirrored Cube

By reimagining an apartment inside a storied palazzo, the designer Paola Moretti both preserved its history and gave it a bold new chapter.

Article by Laura May Todd

11-TMAG-ITALY-HOME-FRESCOES-2In a salon of an apartment in Brescia, Italy, renovated by the designer Paola Moretti, Pompeiian-style friezes, a leather-draped Edra Gran Khan sofa, an Akari lamp by Isamu Noguchi and a leopard skin rug made in 1935 by the Indian taxidermy firm Van Ingen & Van Ingen, atop a vintage Tuareg mat. Photography by Martina Giammaria.

Situated midway between Lake Garda and Lake Iseo, at the southern foot of the Italian alps, the city of Brescia is sleepy but handsomely built, its cobblestone lanes flanked by the occasional Roman ruin and a wealth of Renaissance-era palazzos. Among the most impressive of these is Palazzo Martinengo della Motella. Built in the Brescian Baroque style, its yellow-hued stone facade has large windows topped with dramatic pediments and a tall arched entryway carved with images of shields and of knights on horseback. The palazzo was constructed in the 15th century by its namesake family — “one of Brescia’s most aristocratic,” says the designer Paola Moretti, who in December 2020 was commissioned by an Italian art collector and her husband, the owner of a steel foundry, to reimagine the 5,000-square-foot second-floor apartment they’d recently purchased in the storied building.

Known as the piano nobile, a palazzo’s second floor is typically the most highly prized, and the most lavishly decorated. The Palazzo Martinengo della Motella’s is no exception. Over the centuries, generations of the family commissioned the region’s most sought-after artists to cover its walls with elaborate frescoes. In the 1700s, Pompeiian-style friezes of Greek legends and botanical motifs, attributed to the painter Giuseppe Teosa, were added to the primary bedroom and its anteroom. In the 19th century, the Brescian architect and painter Luigi Basiletti made a series of frescoes detailing the myth of Theseus in what is now the sitting room.

In the entrance hall, a mirror sculpture by Anish Kapoor, a Boa sofa by the Campana Brothers, a pair of Charles and Ray Eames stools and a Giogali ceiling lamp by Angelo Mangiarotti. Photography by Martina Giammaria.
One of Kapoor’s ceramic “Chastre” sculptures, from 1993, sits atop a set of nesting tables by the Danish midcentury designer Grete Jalk. Photography by Martina Giammaria.
The view from the second salon into the bedroom, where a Canapo rocking chaise by Franco Albini sits beside a window. Photography by Martina Giammaria.

A culture of artistic patronage is still alive in Brescia, which is well known in Italy for its collectors. Though small — its population is less than 200,000 — the city is home to a large number of aristocratic families and industrialists with strong ties to the art world. When the Bulgarian-born artist Christo, who died in 2020, was looking for a place to stage his “Floating Piers” installation in 2016, the Brescia-based Beretta family, owners of the nearly 500-year-old arms company, offered up their private island in Lake Iseo as the landing point for his marigold-coloured bridge.

As a native Brescian, Moretti is no stranger to this worldly pool of clients. At the palazzo, she says, her greatest challenge was balancing the grand proportions and lavish wall decorations with her own minimalist style — not to mention the owners’ diverse collection of contemporary art. In the entranceway — which functions as a gallery space, with a concave mirrored work by the British Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor, a bronze head by the Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft and a cast bronze branch by the Israeli artist Ariel Schlesinger, among other pieces — Moretti skirted the walls with tall, reflective steel baseboards to coax the eye down from the sixteen-foot-high frescoed ceiling toward a tangled blue velvet Boa sofa by the Campana Brothers, a wooden Osvaldo Borsani sideboard and a vintage woven Tuareg mat. In the dining room, at the centre of the apartment, she used height to her advantage, hanging a nebulous Frank Gehry-designed Mamacloud pendant over a wooden AT-324 table by Hans Wegner and a set of glossy black Gio Ponti Superleggera chairs.

In the dining room, a vintage AT-324 table by Hans Wegner, Gio Ponti Superleggera chairs and a Mamacloud light by Frank Gehry. Photography by Martina Giammaria.
The dining room is one of the few places in the house where the original Venetian terrazzo floor remains intact. Moretti matched its granular motif with a jaguar-print console from Fornasetti. Photography by Martina Giammaria.
In a corner of the entrance hall, a mirror by Flavio Favelli, ceramic sculptures by Antonio Riello and a Noguchi lamp. Photography by Martina Giammaria.
The view through the enfilade of rooms from the bedroom into the second salon and entrance hall. Photography by Martina Giammaria.

The apartment’s previous tenants, who had lived there for several decades, had lined the walls with wainscoting, treating the extravagant frescoes as if they simply were not there. And in the sitting room, a television blocked Basiletti’s most impressive and detailed imagery. In resuscitating the house, Moretti made minimal interventions to the existing architecture — “I tried to recuperate the original atmosphere,” she says — but in places where centuries-old elements had been destroyed, she took advantage of a clean slate. Some of the original Venetian terrazzo flooring, for example, had been removed and replaced with parquet, so she painted the reddish-toned wood pale grey, the outline of the herringbone pattern now just an apparition through the finish. In the bathrooms, she installed deep soaking tubs and monolithic wash basins in Tundra grey limestone, both of her own design, and used the same stone to fashion a round pedestal table for the kitchen.

Positioned behind the iron-framed canopy bed, a mirrored cube functions as a closet and reflects 18th-century frescoes attributed to the painter Giuseppe Teosa. Photography by Martina Giammaria.
Moretti removed the legs from a pair of vintage wooden chests thought to be by Gio Ponti and mounted them on a bedroom wall, so they appear to float against the fresco. Photography by Martina Giammaria.

With the sitting room no longer oriented around a television, Moretti was able to position the furniture — a 1949 Knoll living room set upholstered in pale pink and a trio of spindly, round-topped wooden Osvaldo Borsani coffee tables — away from the walls, allowing the room’s occupants ample space to appreciate Basiletti’s brightly rendered tableaus. She took a similar approach in the bedroom, designing a hollow mirrored closet that sits behind the iron four-poster bed, which is swathed in antique organza sari fabric hand embroidered with gold thread. Rather than covering Teosa’s dramatic scenes, the wardrobe reflects them on all sides. “It’s a journey,” says Moretti, “through the past, present and future.”

In Belgium, a Home That Celebrates the Elegance of Utility

A designer and an artist have dedicated their lives to producing spaces, objects and furnishings that say only what they need to — and nothing more.

Article by Michael Snyder

BELGIUM HOUSE_1Michaël Verheyden and Saartje Vereecke designed nearly all of the furnishings in their home in Genk, Belgium, including the Trebord dining table in Douglas fir, the Ciub chair in oak and saddle leather and the Curb low table in Italian sandstone. The vintage dining chairs are by Vico Magistretti. Photography by Martin Morrell.

Growing up in the 1980s and ’90s in the Belgian city of Genk, the industrial designer Michaël Verheyden had little interest in art, fashion or design — the fields that would later shape his career as a creator of austere, luxurious housewares and furniture. He did, however, enjoy making things, working with his father to lash together a child-size crossbow from spare pieces of wood or sewing a pair of fingerless gloves in homage to “Bad”-era Michael Jackson. After completing his degree in industrial design at the Media and Design Academy in Genk and following a stint as a runway model for the designer Raf Simons (who had also studied in Genk), Verheyden, now in his mid-40s, began making handbags from a studio in his home town. In 2007, he moved into a 150-square-metre townhouse in the centre of the city with his wife, Saartje Vereecke; together, they established a firm under his name that sells objects like precisely tailored leather placemats and minimalist furnishings such as solid oak stools. Craft, Verheyden says, has always been central to Flemish identity: “For us it comes naturally. Often people see the difficulties that come with making things. We see opportunities.”

In the entry hall, Verheyden’s Ghia Busk vase in Murano glass and Medi leather-covered bowl on a Profilo table in steel and Crema Valencia marble. The painting is by Vereecke, and the vintage chair is by Christophe Gevers. Photography by Martin Morrell.
Verheyden’s Komm bowl in Nero Antico on the dining table and Soli cast brass vases, partly polished, on the windowsill. Photography by Martin Morrell.

Though Verheyden knew his town as a minor industrial burg, its shifting population and fortunes shaped by coal mining and auto manufacturing, Genk had once been a thriving creative hub. From the 1840s, it drew painters and naturalists from cities like Brussels and Antwerp who came to study the surrounding heather fields and juniper-filled moorlands. Part of a newly minted leisure class, they saw Genk’s rural landscape as a respite from the steel and smog that had overtaken other parts of the country. The opening of the area’s first coal mine near the end of World War I marred those idylls, but local artists (among them Verheyden’s maternal grandfather, a teacher) continued to conjure pastoral romances of church towers and shepherds ranging over open country.

Genk likewise offered Verheyden and Vereecke a sense of tranquillity — not to mention an affordable place to live. Twelve years after launching their collection of furnishings, they now sell their work to shops and galleries around the world; they also take on the occasional hotel or restaurant commission, after giving up handbags a decade ago. “Our focus is to make beautiful things,” Verheyden says, “but we only develop objects that you can really use.” In Genk, they collaborate with a workshop on brass hardware that Verheyden hammers and patinas himself, applying the pieces as bases for light fixtures and side tables. Another local artisan carves the wooden trays that he covers with leathers in jewel and earth tones sourced from two of the last small tanneries in Belgium. 

By 2012, Verheyden and Vereecke had outgrown their original home and studio. “It was painful because we’d only just finished the house,” he says, but as Vereecke adds, “We just needed more space.” The 450-square-metre house they found that year, built in the early 1950s, matched their aesthetic, its rationality — all straight lines and expansive windows — tempered with flourishes like restrained crown mouldings and fluted wainscoting. 

Named Ten Berken, or “At the Birches”, after the forests that had once surrounded it, the house stands on a corner lot in a suburban neighbourhood across the train tracks from the Bokrijk museum. Three times the size of their previous home, it allowed them to experiment with designing larger furnishings and new light fixtures — made at their studio, now located inside a second home they own down the street — that punctuate the sun-washed rooms with reflective and matte surfaces of aluminium and brass. “Most of our designs begin with our needs and our space,” Verheyden says. “For us, the house is also a tool.”

A 2012 leather-covered mirror over a prototype of a custom Perlato Royal sink. In the foreground, a Tabou stool in Calacatta Viola marble. Photography by Martin Morrell.
Alabaster tea lights on an aluminium table. Photography by Martin Morrell.

On their first visit to Ten Berken, Verheyden and Vereecke were surprised to meet not only a real estate agent but also the youngest daughter of the original owner, who’d grown up on the property. She’d already turned down several potential buyers who’d talked openly of ripping out the finishes that she’d so lovingly preserved: a flamboyant wrought-iron banister on the main stair — “like a ribbon tied around a gift”, Vereecke says — or the arched thresholds that pass under the main stairwell from the airy south-facing foyer to an office space in the back. Others had hoped to capitalise on the house’s proximity to the Bokrijk train station by turning the place into a restaurant. The couple only got the house, Verheyden says, because “the owner could see that we loved it as it was.” 

After a quick-fix renovation, they’ve spent the past decade gradually updating it. Worn carpets were torn out for polished concrete floors, and the kitchen was relocated from a cramped corner off the back entrance into a larger 18-square-metre space adjacent to the dining room. Working with a fourth-generation carpenter, the pair built custom cabinets to form a corridor that hides the kitchen from view — Vereecke, an avid cook, hates when guests can see an untidy sink — and installed shelves throughout the house with a veneer that mimics the red oak surfaces of some interior doors. 

In the library, the aluminium-and-saddle leather Edo chair, and a Panser table lamp in Calacatta Viola marble on a Volta table with a resin finish. Photography by Martin Morrell.
In the living room, a sofa upholstered in bouclé wool, an aluminium coffee table and another version of the Ciub chair. In the foreground, a Holt Tre chair in chiseled tulip wood. Photography by Martin Morrell.

Upstairs, sconces inspired by Donald Judd’s wall boxes illuminate the gallery that overlooks the foyer and connects the house’s six original bedrooms. What was once the primary bedroom has been refashioned into a 25-square-metre dressing area and bathroom with a marble pedestal sink of Verheyden’s design and a deep shower booth washed from floor to ceiling in impermeable Mortex, whose concretelike finish is similar to Moroccan tadelakt. They turned the other modestly sized bedrooms into their own sleeping area, a guest room, a second dressing space, a music room for Verheyden and a studio for Vereecke, who creates large colour-field paintings that hang on some of the walls.

It’s the downstairs living area that best represents the couple’s shared vision: it’s both warm and spare, defined by muted tones enlivened by the flash of canary yellow in a contemporary Iranian rug and by the luminous shine of an ivory epoxy table — like “spilled yoghurt”, Vereecke says. “A little bit alive.” On warm summer afternoons, the sun filters through curtains of raw, flax-coloured linen hung throughout the house with deep Flemish pleats, a detail that “reflects the way people used to live”, Verheyden says. “Just a few things, not too glamorous, nothing that screams for attention.” These words sound like a mantra, as clear and direct as the objects with which he surrounds himself. For him and his wife, tradition and craft are less an aesthetic than an ethic — sobriety its own kind of luxury, utility the ultimate source of pleasure. The goal, as Verheyden sees it, is to be “very serious about the most ordinary things”. 

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our twelfth edition, Page 90 of T Australia with the headline: “The House is Also a Tool”