“This is silver leaf, hand-applied, each square,” Ghiora Aharoni says, standing in the entrance of this Chelsea pied-à-terre. The client, he says, “wanted something special, something small and spectacular. He commissioned this as a work of art.” If you believe Le Corbusier’s dictum that “a house is a machine for living,” think of this as the Apple Watch version: the most streamlined, silent, seamless possible version of itself. It’s Art Deco form without the jazzy-fussy patterns: simplified and timeless.
The apartment is itself in a 1939 Deco building, modest looking from the street but immaculately maintained within. The space Aharoni’s client purchased was a one-bedroom, built in the prewar vernacular with a foyer leading into each room, creating a lot of dark, unnecessary spaces. It took a year and a half to rebuild, from totally gutting the space to laying in the final details, and entailed a research trip to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The result is a glowing, intimate universe of free-form space, a hybrid of conventional apartment and loft. The kitchen, dining, living, and sleeping areas aren’t blurred together, but they are open to one another. Once you have adjusted to the palette of soft, glowing, silver reflective light, you realize there is nary a right angle in the place, nor a light fixture, for that matter. The design of the kitchen — wait, is that area the kitchen? It has a counter, and curved-glass-encased shelving, but it’s nearly invisible until you are on top of it, when you can see that it’s equipped for a real chef.
A custom-designed divider gives the bedroom some privacy and contains a fireplace open to both the living room and the bedroom, as well as a pivoting flat-screen TV that can face either area. Most remarkable is the bathroom vanity counter, which runs like a satin ribbon from the bathroom wall on through the bedroom, flows into a sink, and continues on to form bedside tables. It is made of one unbroken piece of black Corian, a material, Aharoni notes, “that is very hard to do; it is such a diva. It is not friendly at all.” (He makes a point of adding that he’s highly dependent on the contractors F&N Solutions, who have worked with him for more than a decade and match his level of attention to detail.) Inside the bathroom, light reflects off titanium tiles — smaller than the average bathroom penny tiles, more like dimes — and the pocket door, when closed, has a Deco motif within the glass.
That’s about the only classic Deco element in the apartment. The rest is about form and material. “All these details were handcrafted,” he says, running his hand over a silver-leaf wall, explaining how each square was laid down. “These were caressed for, like, two weeks.”
*This article appears in the Winter 2017 issue of New York Design Hunting.
The silver leaf reflects light within the space, eliminating the need for freestanding lamps. Recessed cove lighting does the job, discreetly. The artworks are Paintstik oils from Richard Serra’s “Reversals” series. “The fluid sensation of space and light is amplified through the erasure of right angles in the apartment’s custom-built architectural elements,” Ghiora Aharoni explains.
The extra-wide (20-inch) oak planks in the floor cascade down the two steps in the living room, and their seams are lined up with those on the wall. “I mean, maybe you wouldn’t notice that,” Aharoni says, “but it creates a sense of harmony, even if you don’t know why.”
The rounded edges continue in the living-room furniture. The coffee table is Aharoni’s own design; the couch is a Vladimir Kagan “Swan.”
The room divider contains storage space, a fireplace that opens through to the bedroom, and a nifty pivoting TV that faces couch or bed.
The bedside lights flip down into the wall; they’re made by the British company Astro Lighting. The rest of the furniture is all built-in and custom. The “Zig Zag” chair is a classic by Gerrit Rietveld, first produced in 1934.
The glass in the bathroom door shifts from opaque at the bottom to clear at the top, allowing in light while providing privacy.
The counter is black Corian, running from the bathroom through the bedroom wall and then meandering down to become the side tables in one continuous line. Like all the silver leaf, the titanium tiles in the shower are meant to reflect light into the room and add shimmer. The tiny but powerful handheld shower is from Dornbracht.