Network and studio executives hear 500 pitches a year. Maybe a dozen make it to your screens. Those are terrible odds. But not for Darren Star. In 1990, he launched Beverly Hills, 90210, a prime-time soap opera about teenagers who create a kind of family. He followed that with Melrose Place, about another self-created family, this time of young adults. Then he introduced Sex and the City, the first series to showcase unmarried career women who lean on one another, not on men. Along the way, he became an icon: a writer who invented a genre.
At first glance, Star’s longtime friend Lee F. Mindel has designed a Manhattan loft in a discreet building just off lower Fifth Avenue that looks more like an urban retreat for a monk than the New York City base of a media impresario. It reads as a rhapsody in white and gray: brick walls, as Mindel puts it, “limed to create a veil of lightness,” freestanding millwork room dividers that look like “floating sculptures,” unadorned windows that celebrate the neighboring buildings and fire escapes and serve, as Mindel says, as “framed urban art spaces.”
For a man who owns exuberant art and dramatic furniture in the residences he keeps in Los Angeles and the Hamptons, Star’s New York loft is a whisper. Awards? On a shelf in his library in Los Angeles. As he observes, “Here, even the brick is quiet.”
But there is an animating concept in this home, an echo of the theme that has powered Star’s shows: the idea of the nonnuclear family as a circle. In the dining area, a round table sits on a square carpet with a circular insert. A visitor instinctively gravitates to this table, which is multipurpose, serving as Star’s desk and dining and conference table. Sitting here with friends and colleagues, he lives out the emotional environment of his best-known shows. “It’s subliminal simplicity—the circle embraces you,” Mindel explains. “You don’t notice. You’re not supposed to.”
In the living room, your eye is first drawn to the Frank Gehry chairs of corrugated cardboard and the large black Richard Serra painting. Only then do you notice the more subtle touches. “The stripes in the rug make the space seem wider,” Mindel says, “and the palette echoes the bricks of the building across the street.” Finally, “because the art grows out of the space,” your eye rests on a pale circle: a hollowed-out artwork by Jose Dávila that fills most of the brick wall.
In its previous incarnations, the loft was an unarticulated hybrid of styles that had, Mindel recalls, “lost its sense of New York City loftness.” No longer: “My intent was to reference West Side Story.” The sprinkler pipes aren’t hidden. The fittings on the sliding doors that cover the elevator are shiny silver, but definitely industrial in style. The doors in the master closet are so glossy that the fire escape is reflected on them. And the wall behind the oversize TV in the bedroom is plastered cement, an echo of a wall in the living room.
Star’s current series is Younger. It’s set in New York, nominally about a 40-year-old single mom who passes herself off as 26 in order to get a job. It stars Sutton Foster, acclaimed in the city for her work in theater, and now known in points west for this show. Is that a break from his tradition? Not really; as ever, Star has again written warm and credible roles for women. And, as in Sex and the City, his women “learn from each other, support one another, and work together.” What’s novel is something he couldn’t do on other shows: He can look out the window and see the set, which on this particular day happens to be half a block away. No wonder, bathed in natural light and cosseted by decor that doesn’t call attention to itself, he says: “This building is for my most comfortable self. I recharge here.”
This story originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Siweb.