See and Be Seen, Interior Design September 2009


When you buy a condominium in two of the West Village’s three famed glass towers by Richard Meier & Partners Architects, you might do it for the prestige. But not for the interiors—the apartments were delivered as raw space. And certainly not for the privacy. As Mark Zeff says, “It’s all about the view.” His renovation of a seventh-floor bachelor pad, standing sentry over the Hudson River, revolved around the idea of making a glass-box-in-the-air a comfortable place to cook, bathe, and otherwise conduct your daily life. That entailed preserving as many sight lines as possible to the river and park below without sacrificing the graciousness of separate public and private spaces.

The build-out was key: Zeff Design ran through several iterations before settling on a core that comprises the kitchen, the master suite, and the guest room and bath. To facilitate flow around this gray-lacquered hub—making the apartment seem larger than its 1,600 square feet—there are no doors between rooms, only full-height panels that slide back into the core to do double duty hiding a closet or a TV screen. “Everything is built in, like an airplane,” Zeff says. The entire kitchen is a built-in, neatly sliced from a corner of the core. Overhead, a gray canopy visually demarcates the cutout area while providing a place for recessed can lights, since the apartment’s ceiling is simply the building’s concrete slab. Cabinetry of bleached, pickled oak—punctuated by a gray terrazzo backsplash—provides an organic, textured counterpoint to the core’s slick lacquer, as do a farmhouse table and folding chairs, all French vintage pieces.

Along the window wall opposite—in a location that’s neither kitchen nor living area, precisely—sits a long oak planter. It’s filled with a thicket of spider plants 4 feet high, tall enough to block the only unfortunate view from the apartment: the roof of the building next door, where the neighbors like to sunbathe. The living area’s main windows, on the other hand, enjoy the best view of the Hudson, and Zeff positioned sections of the massive central sofa to make either the river or the TV the focal point.

The adjacent office area’s bronze sconces introduce a subtle nautical theme that carries through to the wood-paneled master suite, where the bedroom and the bathroom behind are essentially one—think an extra-spacious cabin on a ship. Horizontal oak slats clad the walls in the bedroom, which, similar to the kitchen, is a corner carved out of the core. Unlike in the kitchen, however, Zeff abandoned bleaching and pickling here in favor of a caramel-colored stain that provides a cozy contrast to the pale gray of the concrete structural columns and the plush wool carpet and chenille bedspread chosen to match.

In the apartment’s most elegant gesture, the rift-cut cherry headboard of the built-in platform bed morphs seamlessly into a cabinet in the bathroom, and the two halves together form the base of a translucent glass partition. The glass not only gives some privacy to the sleeping and bathing quarters but also lets sunlight into a windowless internal space. Bathroom surfaces that aren’t lined in oiled teak are tiled in unglazed gray porcelain. “A material that resonates with the river” is how Zeff describes the tile. After all, the Hudson’s water isn’t actually blue.

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