Beautiful craftsmanship, detailing, and materials define the luxury of disarmingly simple interiors.
The two young women on RECORD's cover this month are doing what so many people like to do in memorable spaces–take a selfie and maybe post it on Instagram. They are posing in the sunglasses boutique inside the new branch of the venerable Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette. The curving honeycomb of cubbyholes, each holding a single pair of chic frames, is a highlight of the intervention by the firm BIG in a 1930s Art Deco building on the Champs Elysées that was once home to a bank.
Sunglasses could be a metaphor for most of the projects in this issue of Record Interiors. Interiors of the modern movement typically reflected the exterior, but in the pages ahead, the inside is so distinct from the outside that the building might as well be wearing shades to disguise the unexpected spaces, wrapping them in mystery.
Take, for example, an apartment building designed by Zaha Hadid, on the High Line in Manhattan, that features bold curves and big, sleek rounded windows edged in black. Yet the interior of one unit—which was to have been Hadid’s own New York home until her untimely death in 2016—could not be less Zaha-esque. Bought by a couple from the West Coast, the 3,000-square-foot apartment interior as created by the San Diego-based LUCE et Studio seems inspired in part by Midcentury Modernism and is full of warmth from the abundant use of wood, with precisely trimmed planks of California oak cladding most of the walls, floors, and doors.
In another New York interior, in a supertall tower characterized by large, square windows, an expansive 8,000-square-foot residence that occupies an entire floor has been partly shaped into surprisingly intimate spaces by the Japanese designer and photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and his architecture studio. That includes the narrow entrance hall for guests, with a restrained wooden ceiling, and a surprising encounter with a small tearoom on an elevated platform no bigger than five tatami mats.
These interiors are about an unassuming luxury—not gilded or plush but sumptuous in craft and details, with a simplicity that should not be mistaken for modesty, in either the materials or the budget. Similarly, an apartment in Rio de Janeiro by Arthur Casas defers to its extraordinary views of Ipanema Beach and the ocean with quietly neutral spaces, subtly elegant finishes, and highly refined custom furnishings. The Sugimoto apartment—in which the artist and his team designed almost everything except the French stove—employs a discreetly extravagant material palette, including weathered stone from the streets of Kyoto for floors. The centerpiece of the master bath of the LUCE residence is a sensuous tub carved from a single block of Pietra Cardosa.
But one interior in our portfolio this month does echo the architecture of its exterior and pays homage to its Modernist roots. The Blique by Nobis hotel in Stockholm, designed by Wingårdhs, is housed in what was a 1930s warehouse for Philips (its architect, Sigurd Lewerentz, was a contemporary of Gunnar Asplund but is more of a cult figure). For all the comforts one expects in a contemporary hotel, the design team’s concept is daring: using a pared-down roster of materials—raw concrete, black steel—they embraced the original building’s utilitarian aesthetic and literal shortcomings. The ceilings in most guest rooms are a scant 7½ feet tall, and the distinctive grid of the small, square windows adds to the ambience of austerity. Ducts and cables are left exposed overhead. Yet the hotel’s toughness conveys a strong architectural character.
Each of these designs is true to a singular idea, with a unique, authentic sensibility that sets it apart from current trends—blush pink! patterned wallpaper!—and most Instagrammable interiors. Though these projects are high-end, any architect who is able to exploit craft and materials to the fullest on a more limited budget can find points of inspiration in the interiors here. And if you found yourself in one of these spaces, you just might be tempted to take a selfie too.