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Publication Date: 2013-03-29

Behind the Design

Due East: Charlie Ferrer's Manhattan Move

Charlie Ferrer made the reverse commute. That is to say he moved from sunny Los Angeles, where he lived for seven years, to New York last fall to open Ferrer, an art and design showroom, as well as an interior decorating studio. While in L.A., Ferrer was partners with Ana Meier, with whom he developed a line of sculptural furniture called Meier/Ferrer and showed alongside vintage furniture and objects in an airy cottage on a quiet strip of Melrose Place. (It now houses an Isabel Marant boutique.) That partnership dissolved amicably, and Ferrer felt it was time to make the move east. Cultured’s Tali Jaffe caught up with Ferrer in his new downtown New York space to discuss the two coasts, tough clients and new talent.

How many designers are you currently representing?

At the moment, I am representing eight or so producers, a combination of designers and artists, including Luis Pons, Christopher Broyles, Ricardo Fasanello and Robert Stilin. The work I show fall into two categories: work that is completely new and never seen before and work that is not available in New York currently and needs to be. I want to bring my interior designer clients and private collectors the best of what’s around. And always, we are open to facilitating unique commissions. Pushing precedents and taking ideas that next step is big part of why I do this.

You recently began working as a decorator as well.

Yes, parallel to my design gallery operation (which is very small, intimately scaled), I am establishing an interior design practice. My aesthetic is one of clean lines, supple textures and handsome colors. My inspirations are all over the map, but I do find I am most happy looking to the 30s and 40s. My design philosophy is about selectivity and restraint. I think about Jean-Michel Frank and his mastery of applying rich textures to very basic essential silhouettes—lovely and elegant. I want to work that way—incorporate a vein of sensuality and sexuality but temper both with a modicum of formality. Always, I want to design in response to a project’s needs and the client’s sensitivities and temperament. But I think my strength is in creating design solutions that are about a timelessness, derived from classical and modern inspirations in seamless harmony or comfortable opposition with each other.

And you have a client that’s very close to home.

Tell us about the current project you’re working on. Indeed. One of Ferrer’s main projects at the moment is a family home in Palm Beach. My family’s home. We brought down a single-story 1950s house on a modestly sized lot near town to create a flat pad. Typical of any healthy client relationship, occasionally there are differences of opinion but, in this case, there is a tremendous amount of trust—trust and, by extension, respect. These two very powerful things make negotiating divergent views easier and bring about good outcomes quickly.

A principle mandate was abundant natural light, and, while the site is great, there are no views. Rather than build a dense dark block of a house (one sees this too often) we—Anne Fairfax and Richard Sammons are the architects— elected for a courtyard scheme. The house snakes the site, forming outdoor rooms. Lots of fenestration—something like 80 some odd windows and doors. A lot of indoor/outdoor. Symmetry is emphasized. Rooms become hallways aligning to create really lovely enfilade—one will look through series of rooms aligned in file.

With the architecture and soon with the interiors, I’ve tried to manage a delicate balance between formality and nonchalance and classical and modern. The architecture is in most respects 1920s, Anglo-Carribean inflected with some continental features. The interior will be predominantly 1930s and 1940s in feel. The palette is neutral, tonal and about texture. I am weaving into the interiors the work of many of the people I represent, and some exciting commissions are in the works.

You’re currently building out a new workspace. Will you be curating shows at your studio or is it strictly a showroom?

I am working and living in a downtown apartment. I am treating the space as a small project. Building out an environment filled with things I represent. Besides a comfortable place to sleep, I regard it as a studio and a show space. I will be seeing clients there on a personal basis, not necessarily mounting formal exhibitions or shows. Kind of DL, but impromptu and changing organically. Clients are encouraged to visit often.

How are you finding New York?

New York is the best. It makes me hopeful. Makes me feel vital in a way no other city can. New York is where I need to be.

Care to share one of your dream projects or collaborations with us? Tom Flynn would be a dream collaborator. An interior designer living in New York, Tom is a client and dear friend who operates mostly under the radar. So gentle and so considerate, he is fastidious in every aspect of his life. Each time I share Tom’s company, I walk away enlightened or emboldened in some way. He inspires me. I’d like to do something with Tom far away, in a place removed from the noise. Probably a project by the ocean or in the mountains. Quite and bright and sexy.

Which designers are on your radar?

Billy Cotton. Billy is someone who already has achieved a great deal—flatware and dinnerware collections, furniture too. He has done some incredible interior design work for seriously discerning people. In his work, one can locate the maxims of modernism and the conventions of period furniture. It is impossible to define Billy or his work narrowly. I am Billy’s dealer for his finest, most exquisite, most bold work. He is working on a number of new things, and in the meantime, the first item to arrive will be a new rendition of his chandelier.

This article originally appeared in Cultured. Interview by Tali Jaffe. Photography by Lisa Romerein.


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