Most people have favorite words that summon, for them, a special story. Summer afternoon, say. Christmas morning. For Los Angeles–based designers Waldo Fernandez and Tommy Clements, that word is pied-à-terre. And they've made the story that word evokes flower at the elegant eastern edge of New York's West Village.
An 18th-century Italian chest and a lamp by Gae Aulenti in the bedroom.
Havana-born Fernandez is a design star of four decades' standing, with a client list that includes Hollywood royalty, while Clements, who works with his mother, Kathleen, is the designer of choice for certain stars whose first names say it all. The two men are partners in life who love Manhattan, looked around, and got lucky, though the six rooms they found in an 1840s townhouse needed work. "A complete gut job," Fernandez says, "but anyone with vision could see it could be great."
A stool by Daniel Wenger and a painting by A.R. Penck in the dining room.
The apartment had high ceilings, Nero marble mantels, egg-and-dart cornices. And it was in their dream neighborhood, Washington Square ("I love being able to see the arch every day," Clements says). NYU, good food, art, people; it was all at hand. "What's not to love?" he adds.
A painting by Rashid Johnson in the same room; the custom jute rug is from Lawrence of La Brea, and the walls throughout the apartment are painted in Farrow & Ball's All White.
Great designers can hear the history of a place and coax it forth; here, Clements and Fernandez have coaxed forth their own past and present, in the first home they've created from the beginning, as a couple. The place began with key items Fernandez had collected, then he and Clements brought in others they'd found together. They hoped to set into conversation pieces that "on paper shouldn't work," Clements explains (Ruhlmann chairs, a plywood Rick Owens daybed), "but look killer together."
Clements and Fernandez in the living room.
The result is a home, not a design lab, made for work, pleasure, and frequent use—a place for which the men had specific goals. "We wanted it to be a reflection of us both," Clements says, "and to feel laid-back. The way our L.A. house is set up, it's difficult to entertain, to have people over. We wanted New York to be the opposite."
In the West Village pied-à-terre of Los Angeles–based designers Waldo Fernandez and Tommy Clements, the daybed is by Rick Owens, armchairs by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann are upholstered in an alpaca by Perrine Rousseau, and the side chairs are by Jean Prouvé; the Venetian mirror once belonged to Helena Rubinstein, the 1950s light fixture is by Alberto Giacometti, the sculpture is Cambodian, and the dhurrie and striped kilim are from Lawrence of La Brea.
They've succeeded. The living room greets you like a relaxed host. The walls are a serene white; the diagonally laid oak floors are pale and matte, soaking up the abundant light. Overhead hangs a Giacometti chandelier Fernandez has had forever; add two Prouvé chairs, the aforementioned Ruhlmann and Owens pieces, glamorize it all with an ornate 18th-century blue-glass Venetian mirror (provenance: Helena Rubinstein), and you sense that the city is close by, but also far enough away. Presiding over it all is a serene sculpture placed between the 10-foot-high windows, intriguingly vague: an armless Cambodian torso upon a plinth. You might want to bow your head, even leave an offering. Maybe because it feels just right?
Custom steel-and-oak stairs lead to the library; the floor lamp is by Eileen Gray.
That sense of the spiritual (and the just right) recurs on the recessed half-landing, where African masks line the top of a bookcase and art books fill the rest. You could spend hours thumbing through books while sitting on the Lalanne bench. In fact, you could happily lose yourself in any part of the apartment—in the dining room, for example, more Prouvé chairs surround a take-no-prisoners iron slab of a dining table by Jerôme Abel Seguin; the chairs' dark green legs echo the touch of nature provided by the fiddle-leaf fig in the living room. A wall-size all-black (but is it?) painting by Rashid Johnson looks down, at once forbidding and demanding a further look. What else would work there? Many things. What is precisely right? This.
The bathroom vanity and tub are by Waterworks, the fittings are by Lefroy Books, and the sconces are by Ozone; the walls are sheathed in Calacatta Viola marble.
In the bedroom, a faded 17th-century Spanish Cuenca rug in autumn-in–New York tones peeks out from under the bed, upon which rests a de Le Cuona linen throw, custom sewn into geometric patches that look like fields viewed from an airplane window. Above the bed, a 2015 painting by Pamela Rosenkranz—a layered gloss on a 15th-century painting by Carpaccio—brings in a distant European past that rhymes perfectly with the carpet, while a not-too-big flat-screen TV floats effortlessly above a stout 18th-century Italian bureau. Beyond are glimpses of the cool order of a bathroom wrapped in Calacatta marble. "And it has my soaps, my clothes, my favorite Indian towels," Fernandez says. "It's home."
The dining table by Jerôme Abel Seguin is from Ralph Pucci, the vintage chairs are by Jean Prouvé, the photograph over the mantel is by Catherine Opie, the sculpture is by Elliott Hundley, and the vases on the mantel are by Rick Owens.
In the way Clements and Fernandez have brought their pied-à-terre to life, one senses their delight and gratitude at finding such an ideal spot in such a storied city. This is New York, after all, and the happy shades of Manhattan myths are everywhere; the voices in the next room are not only Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Rick Owens but also Holly Golightly and Auntie Mame. The lady in silk trying to figure out how to sit gracefully on the Prouvé chair is Edith Wharton, the click-click-click is Andy Warhol and his Polaroid, looking around and saying, "Gee…." It's the right word, somehow. Fernandez and Clements have made themselves a home away from home that is so nice to come home to.
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