ON A SILENT BLOCK in Manhattan’s East 40s, the 18-story Beaux Arts apartment complex is one of the city’s understated architectural gems, designed in 1929 by prominent New York architects Raymond Hood and Kenneth Murchison. Originally intended to provide residential and studio spaces for Midtown’s burgeoning artist community, it consists of twin structures built across from each other with Art Deco-style facades of limestone, brick and steel. .
Canadian interior designer Martin Brûlé, 33, discovered Fine Arts five years ago while seeking a home port in New York after living for years between the city, Miami, Paris and Montreal. . He was immediately transfixed. “I’m obsessed with the 20s and 30s,” says Brûlé, who often incorporates early 20th-century designs into his work: clean but sumptuous materials and finishes like velvet, lacquer and polished wood; monochrome shades and geometric patterns; and bold period furniture. “For me, Art Deco was a harbinger of modernism that has never really been equaled.
When Brûlé first saw the apartment, a 1,300 square foot space on the 14th floor, the entrance was a cramped passage that led to a kitchen covered in Formica (“very 90s Home Depot”, says it) followed by a small living room intercepted by awkward soffits. But at the end of that living room was a single large casement window that, if you stood at the correct angle, perfectly framed the iconic steel spire of the Chrysler Building, built at the same time as the Beaux-Arts. Brûlé signed the lease that day.
By setting aside some of the apartment’s more unwanted features, Brûlé found the freedom to experiment, creating a respite that is not only reminiscent of New York’s jazz age, but the ’80s reinterpretation of Art Deco, which mixed minimalism and monochromatic flair. He hid the scuffed floors in both bedrooms with a velvety wool rug – chocolate brown in one room and creamy ivory in the other – and painted the walls accordingly. He stuccoed and decorated the walls of the main living-dining room with a rustic faux finish that suggests a mix of limestone, parchment and travertine and the gravity of which makes the soffits appear intentional. Perhaps most dramatically, he ripped the Formica out of the kitchen and replaced it with understated brushed stainless steel cabinetry and a polished black granite countertop. He then stored a Smeg oven and Miele cooktop in a cupboard at the north end of the living room, closest to the kitchen, which he hid from floor to off-white ceiling. woolen cloth curtains. It may seem too elegant to be practical, but Brûlé often hosts dinners for 15 people around a rare eight-foot-long Art Deco pedestal table in bronze and marble from the 1920s purchased from his former employer, the architect of interior and antique dealer Jean -Paul Beaujard.
THE MASTER BEDROOM itself is divided into two parts: the half closest to the kitchen is anchored by the marble pedestal table, which Brûlé has raised on the mover’s carts so that it can be rolled into the room for dinners or a meeting (the apartment also serves as an office). On the west wall, a small painting by Josef Albers from 1948 hanging over the fireplace is the only touch of color in the space; nearby, a chair adorned with the Carlo Bugatti mosque and a 1926 rosewood and parchment secretary decorate a niche. The other half of the room, which overlooks the street, is his living space. The east wall is lined with black lacquered Ikea low cabinets that run the length of the room. They complement a 1980s Antella wooden table by Kazuhide Takahama that Brûlé uses as a desk.
The focal point of the space is a 90s LC4 chair by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, positioned in front of this 10-foot-high casement window, flanked by ivory raw silk curtain panels. “When I was growing up, this chair was the most basic thing in the world,” Brûlé says. And while it is true that the chaise longue has almost become a cliché of contemporary interior design, in the context of the Brûlé house, we revisit it and we can appreciate its daring functionality. “Some pieces have more presence and you have to give them space,” he explains.
But it is Brûlé’s room which is the apartment’s most intimate (and revealing) space. At first glance, he’s modest: a mattress on the floor with white linens, a lone oak chair by his side. But the linens were custom made for Brûlé at a mill in Italy, the pillows are the finest Canadian goose down, and the chair is a rare Carlo Bugatti from 1906: everything is simple, but chosen with care. This is also how Brûlé conceives. “What I love most,” he said, “is an almost invisible opulence.”