The Lenox Hill Hospital Designer Showhouse presented its participants with an especially difficult challenge: complementing the incredible views of downtown New York without being overshadowed by them. Designer Ken Gemes’ rhythmic, structural, yet calming room design took command of the views and used them as a supportive element. From the boldly contrasting yet muted color scheme, to the refined, subtle whimsy of the decor, the room shines with the light and architecture of the surrounding city.
What was the starting point for your design of this room? Or, what were some of the inspirations?
Ken Gemes: I had found a fabric from Jim Thompson, “Illumination”, which caught my attention. It was all different shades of taupes and mocha’s and ivories, on an espresso ground. A tight and specific color story, but with a strong personality. The fabric tells the story of when Siamese diplomats, headed by a Thai named Kosa Pan, visited the court of Louis the XIV at Versailles. The fabric shows a procession of Thai nobles elegantly dressed in rich brocades and woven silks, parading in lines, giving a horizontal stripe effect to the fabric. It has an architectural feel and relates to the myriad of buildings you see from the 55th floor of the apartment.
What do you usually look for in a rug, and how did Antwerp fit the bill for this space?
KG: Just as the fabric features the blending of all the subtle tones of color, the Antwerp rug accomplishes the same incredible blending of multiple colored yarns to create a subtle, rich rug. I always like rugs that layer in texture without “stealing the show” from the rest of the room. Antwerp is a perfect backdrop for a very focused black, white and mocha color story.
What kind of person could you see living here?
KG: I would see a young professional in this space, who would benefit from all the amenities of hotel living, but in a space that can be personalized to reflect one’s personality and lifestyle.
Was there a particular vignette in the room you felt was especially effective, or enjoyable to create?
KG: I had a bar/console made to sit at the exact height of the back of the sofa. I had my wallpaper man cover the table in a grass cloth in the same shade of mocha that the sofa was upholstered in. This allowed the sofa and bar to meld into one another and not overpower the space. It also provided the perfect space for meals, with bar stools tucked underneath, or additional counter space while meals were being prepared.
Creating spaces that cater to social interaction is important to you; how does this room function in that way?
KG: With the views offered by this apartment, I felt the owner would want to enjoy it with friends and associates, so I worked hard to create a seating area capable of seating 10 guests, and still having the room feel open and inviting. Several “pull up” pieces were included in the room, so the space can expand with the crowd.