Ku-Ling Yurman can't quite put her finger on it. "We appreciate things that are artisanal and unique, that speak to us in a poetic way," she says, describing the serene yet sparkling decor that she and her husband, Evan Yurman, have created in their family apartment in New York's TriBeCa neighborhood. "We want our rooms to be relaxed and comfortable. I'd like to say they're bohemian, but other than the rugs, I'm not sure that word applies."
But then, bohemianism is first and foremost a state of mind—that of people who are disinclined to follow rules and formulas, and who value the notion of a life well lived. La vie bohème is also about art and creativity: In these aspects, the Yurmans are typecast. She is a filmmaker admired for her documentaries; he designs the men's collection for David Yurman, the jewelry company founded by his father.
In the living room of Evan and Ku-Ling Yurman's TriBeCa apartment, which was renovated by Richard Moschella and Steven Roberts of Moschella + Roberts, the midcentury furnishings include a pair of Nanna Ditzel chairs, a Hans Wegner armchair, and a cocktail table by Hendrik van Keppel and Taylor Green, purchased at auction; the sofa by Wyeth is covered in a Rogers & Goffigon cashmere, and 19th-century bronze ram heads stand on a speaker designed by Evan. The bench is 20th-century African, the curtains are of a Kravet linen, and the Iranian rug is from Double Knot.
A bohemian space is also about a certain artlessness: a natural, unguarded, and curious approach to design and style. And that might be the key to a decor that runs like a river—calm on the surface but with powerful currents below. Here, a wall with 11-foot-tall industrial casement windows opening onto dramatic cityscapes contrasts with other walls covered in contemporary art. "Some people pick a direction for what they collect—they'll choose a period, like Art Deco, or a favorite designer," says Evan. "We've always put things together as we've gone along. It's all grown organically."
The kitchen's range and microwave are by Wolf, the refrigerator is by Sub-Zero, the custom hood is by Vent-a-Hood, and the countertop is Calacatta Gold marble; Hans Wegner chairs, purchased at auction, flank a table by Eero Saarinen from Design Within Reach, and the vintage pendant light is by Max Ingrand for FontanaArte.
Growth brought the Yurmans to this home. They were living in an open-plan loft farther downtown with their two girls, ages seven and five, when they learned that another child—a little boy now 18 months old—was on the way. Clearly an adult reckoning was in order. Light and space were de rigueur, but so was a bit more organization, including rooms for privacy, family time, and entertaining. Once they found an apartment (in a new building with a facade that nods to the neighborhood's industrial past), architects Richard Moschella and Steven Roberts arrived to tailor the environment. "They were there to manifest our ideas rather than impose their own," says Evan. "In the end, they elevated the things we wanted to do."
The sofa in the den is from DDC, the Hans Wegner lounge chair is from Wyeth, and the vintage cocktail table is by Milo Baughman; the painting is by Park Ito and the rug is an early-20th-century Turkish kilim.
One thing they didn't elevate was the ceiling. "We actually lowered it slightly, to more closely align with the head of the windows," says Moschella. "This allows the eye to move unimpeded across the ceiling and out to the river view, while concealing museum-grade lighting and ductwork for the central air-conditioning." They also shifted a wall to amplify the living and dining room space while narrowing the kitchen to make it more efficient. But the architects' most brilliant move may also have been the cheapest. In transitional areas of the house, such as hallways, rather than line the walls with a costly treatment like leather or exotic wood, Moschella and Roberts installed panels of humble medium-density fiberboard, thrice-lacquered to a rich speckled brown. "I love the high-low effect this achieved," Evan says.
A hall leading to the master bedroom is hung with wall sculptures by Anthony James and a painting by Mark Flood; the walls are painted in Benjamin Moore's Super White.
For the Yurmans, a clean slate was a pleasant but somewhat daunting oddity. "We were used to funky, scruffy artists' lofts," Evan says. "Ku-Ling and I grew up the same way. She was on the Bowery in a rent-stabilized apartment with her parents. I grew up in TriBeCa surrounded by working factories. My father and mother made modifications to our loft as needed. The floors were painted, and when they got scraped and scuffed, they painted them again."
The dining table by Harvey Probber, chairs by William Katavolos, and pendant light are all vintage; the flooring is white oak.
That was one lesson in the beauty of patina. Others came from gallerist John Birch, the notoriously cranky connoisseur who owns the downtown design store Wyeth, the source of many pieces in the Yurman apartment. "I wandered into his shop about 12 years ago and stayed for four hours," says Evan. "I've been going back ever since. John finds the thing that has lived a perfect life. As someone who works with metals and stones and knows how they gain character from use, I can tell you that you can't re-create that."
In the master bedroom, the bed is by Meridiani, the wall lamp is by Serge Mouille, the vintage Poul Kjaerholm daybed retains its original leather, and the side table is by Wyeth; the console is a vintage piece by Paul McCobb, and the circa-1970 Beni Ourain rug is from Double Knot.
The Yurmans' home also reveals evidence of an aesthetic sensibility that can't be taught. It's there in the juxtaposition of items such as a hand-carved African bench and two sleek Nanna Ditzel lounge chairs in the living room; in the choice of ethereal Nublado marble in the master bath; and in the "conversation," as Evan calls it, among the works of abstract contemporary art on the walls, many of them by friends of the Yurmans. "In my film work, I am always looking for the visual narrative," says Ku-Ling. "Your home is your personal narrative—it tells a story about you."
This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Siweb.