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THE DOSSIER: NAME: Robert Passal. TRADE: Interior designer. VIBE: Lighthearted modern. WHEREABOUTS: Union Square, New York, NY.
When New York-based designer Robert Passal first saw his client’s 1200-square-foot Union Square apartment, he knew he had his work cut out for him. Though the space was steeped in a romantic Manhattan story—the building housed the original Tiffany & Co., hence its grand archways—it was a blank slate. “It had some great architectural details, but was otherwise a ‘white box,’” he says. To find out how Passal pulled off his punchy yet cosmopolitan transformation, we asked the designer, who honed his chops working for antiques dealer John Rosselli and at retail design studio Healing Barsanti before founding own firm in 2000, to take us through his process.
Did you receive any direction from your client going in?
The client is a 28-years-young gentleman from Colorado, and he wanted his background to be referenced, but didn’t want any obvious cues like exposed beams and stucco wall. We incorporated a plaster entry console designed by artist Stephen Antonson. It’s an ode to Colorado, yet nods to a classic Giacometti piece at the same time.
Let’s talk window treatments: how did you tackle the archway shape?
We had the window treatments hand-painted onto canvasses by local artist Johnny Vendiola, who works in a very Robert Motherwell sort of style— bold yet sophisticated. Then we sent them to be sewn and pleated. We were able to mount the curtains behind the arches, which is not the norm. In general, you have to mount curtains from the front. When that’s the case, I usually take the drapery as high as possible and then proceed as if it were a square or rectangular window. I find that most window treatment applications that accentuate the arch look forced.
The guest bathroom is among the most dynamic moments of the apartment. What was your vision for it?
I like for the powder room to create a momentary experience for guests. This one is all about drama. We used the over-scaled photograph of Brigitte Bardot by Alex Cao for impact, and the “Newsprint” wall covering by British artist Tracy Kendall on the ceiling to bring a reflective quality into an otherwise black space.
The kitchen mixes industrial and traditional elements seamlessly. What holds it together?
It was curated so that nothing matches but everything coordinates. I like the tension between the industrial stools and the traditional island. I designed the acrylic bar in the foreground: the concept was that we did not want to block the view and the light that emanates throughout the space. I was enamored by the idea that the items on the bar seemed to float when flooded with sunlight.
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