Inside an Un-Designed West Village Apartment

Photo: Annie Schlechter/New York Magazine

“On a daily basis, I am inundated with spaces, projects, design, and décor,” says Ari Heckman. He’s one of the founding partners of ASH NYC, a design and real-estate-development firm, and given what his workdays involve, it’s not unreasonable that he would want his own home to represent a retreat from all that. “I was inspired to have something simple and clean and white,” says Heckman. Indeed, the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his partner, Ethan Feirstein, is immaculate and feels more like an art gallery than a living space. It’s still very much an exercise in design—the scheme owes a debt to contemporary Belgian and French interior designers—but the sparse, monastic aesthetic makes the home a refuge.

When Heckman began his hunt, he wasn’t looking for calm: Like any real-estate insider, he was looking for location. The apartment, perched over one of the West Village’s most desirable corners, certainly has that—but it represented a serious renovation project. The space, just shy of 700 square feet, had not been updated in the six decades that the previous tenant lived in it. But where most would have been put off by an awkward layout, unsightly ceiling tiles, and actual mold growing in the bathroom, Heckman saw possibility. “When I walked in, I knew I wanted it,” he says.

Heckman began by reimagining the layout, relocating the kitchen and bath to create a corridor of repeating portals leading from the main living space to the bedroom at the apartment’s rear. He envisioned an interior inspired by the minimalist architects Vincent Van Duysen and John Pawson. With more than ten ASH NYC projects in development, including the Dean, a hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, he figured adding a little residential renovation to his to-do list wouldn’t be a big deal. “I was optimistic about how quickly it would be completed,” he says.

The clean box Heckman dreamt of proved to be trickier to create than he had imagined. To save money, Heckman enlisted Will Cooper, ASH NYC’s creative director, to assist with some of the design decisions. That helped with the budget, but Heckman still faced the logistical hurdles of gut-renovating a fourth-floor walk-up in a building where the stairwell measures just 24 inches across in some places. This is to say nothing of the cosmetic challenges posed by the space’s unforgiving angles and imperfections, which would normally have been hidden behind molding.

After almost nine months, the renovation was complete. The furnishings from his previous apartment had made their way into ASH NYC’s inventory of staging props, so Heckman pulled new furniture from its storerooms to fill his space, including top-tier pieces from the 1940s through the ’60s that he’d sourced on his international travels. And since Heckman has ASH NYC’s vast collections at his disposal, he’s already rotated all the art in the apartment in the handful of months he’s lived there. “Part of why I wanted this clean, John Pawson–inspired white box was so I could cycle my collection,” he says. While the space may look minimalist to some, it’s really more a love letter to beautiful things.

*This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of New York Design Hunting.

Inside an Un-Designed West Village Apartment