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    Article written for Red Cover, photography by Ken Hayden.
Article written for Red Cover, photography by Ken Hayden
World-renowned designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, along with his partner StevenWine, decided that the best way to start planning their New York apartmentwould be to live in the space for a few months with no furnishings - just amattress on the floor. This experience would ensure that the project, when itbegan, would progress flawlessly and so take just three months from start tofinish. The end result is a breathtaking white-on-white scheme, with shimmeringpearlised surfaces, clear acrylic furnishings, and plenty of large-scalemirrors creating a space with a whimsical appeal. Sumptuous tactile texturesadd a sense of comfort, while witty touches ensure that the ambience remainshomely and down-to-earth despite some of the apartment's truly sensationaldesign features.
(121 words)

Title: Emotionalintelligence

Sell: Conceived as a pearl, hidden in the shell of an unremarkableapartment building, this home has an ethereal, dream-like interior that evokesa feeling of serenity.

Body copy:

When it came to planning their New York apartment, situatedin a 1983-built edifice in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan, world-renowneddesigner Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz and his partner Steven Wine - also a designer -knew exactly the first step to take. They moved right in. "We bought theplace in August 2002," recalls Benjamin. "We wanted to experiencelife in the space for a time to see how the layout would work best, so we putan inflatable mattress on the floor, and lived in it, near-empty, from Octoberuntil January."

Benjamin and Steven bought appliances and other fixtures asthey went along, designing each part room by room, and simply putting them intostorage until the remodelling work began - for which they removed themselves toa furnished apartment. It was an approach that would pay dividends, not only inthe perfection of the finished result, but also in terms of the speed andsimplicity of the build. "We didn't make a single mistake," Benjaminexplains. "And the project took just three months from start to finish.The contractor even gave us money back at the end, since they had completed thework way in advance of the schedule!"

The swiftness with which the transformation was completedbelies its extent, since the plans involved gutting everything and startingfrom scratch - Benjamin even altered the layout of the duplex so that theentrance, previously on the 9th floor along with the living areas, was shiftedto the 8th floor, where the bedrooms and bathrooms can be found. "We hadmore space on that level, so it made sense," Benjamin explains. "Iwanted to create a closet and space for a washer dryer close to the door, as I'vefound the only way to keep such pale decor from getting grubby very quickly whenyou're living in a city is to get into the habit of changing your clothes everytime you come in, so the additional space was important."

Indeed, it's the absence of colour that strikes youimmediately upon entering this ethereal space - it's a layered confection ofvarying shades of white, given depth by the use of texture. "Our startingpoint was this scheme," Benjamin remembers. "Our previous place hadbeen silver, since it overlooked the Hudson River, and we took inspiration fromits shimmering waters. But of course in a city, it's not possible to referencethe landscape in the same way. While we were living in the empty apartment, werealised how appealing we found the pearlescent appearance of a shell's insidesurface, and that became the dominating concept for the décor."

Broadly speaking, the entire interior is comprised ofmetallic, white and transparent elements - although to ensure a comfortablesoftness in the living areas, the shade of white has a creamy edge to it. Andnot only has Benjamin juxtaposed a variety of textures to create interest, buthe has mixed up old and new, as well as shapely and boxy, to ensure that thelayered effect is both tactile and visual. Effects bordering on optical illusionsare in evidence, too, and not just in the use of large-scale mirrors. Forexample, the dining table - part of Benjamin's own range - features a fauxleather-wrapped top with an inverted angle profile to give it a wafer-thinappearance, which when viewed above the clear acrylic base, appears to almostfloat.

Such a whimsical touch is also to be found elsewhere. In thestairwell, with its wall-to-wall shagpile and aluminium-leaf wall, Benjamindecided that a sense of humour was required to prevent the scheme from takingitself too seriously. "There's a huge mirror on the left-hand sidereflecting the silvery wall and sumptuous carpet, and I felt this duplicationmade the stair seem a little too grand for such a tiny apartment," heexplains. "I decided I had to add a joke to lighten everything up. I've always been fond of chickens, as Iremember them running around everywhere when I was growing up in Puerto Rico,so when I found these I thought they'd be the ideal solution to theproblem."

The apartment functions in exactly the way that Benjamin andSteven had intended - as a comfortable and calming retreat cocooned away fromthe hustle and bustle of the city. As befits such an intimate space,entertaining is usually informal and limited to three or four people at a time."We tend to just hang out with close friends, watching movies in thewinter or maybe having a barbecue on the terrace in summer," smilesBenjamin. "It's the sort of place you take your shoes off to come into, sovisitors must feel comfortable with that." But at the same time thereisn't the slightest hint of preciousness about the pale surfaces of the decor."We still serve red wine, and other things that some people might worryabout if they have white furnishings, our attitude is that everything can becleaned. You can't tell guests 'do this' and 'don't do that', it would soundlike you were trying to be their mother!" he chuckles.

Unsurprisingly, it's this emphasis on comfortably living ina space - without feeling as if you might somehow sully the pristine decor -that Benjamin holds so dear. "Interiors have to have emotion," heexplains. "It's not enough to simply put together pretty things andcomplementary colours, you always need more depth. I find it's important tostart with an inspirational concept, a story even, that can guide the creativeprocess. They're more than just decorative, interiors are works of art. They'relike a still life that you can walk into and experience an emotionalfeeling."

(950 words)


1. (stairs with chickens)
In the stairwell a shimmering metallic wall, covered in aluminium leaf, isjuxtaposed against the tactile surface of the shagpile. The lifelike chickenswere added to ensure that the stair did not become too grand for such a littleapartment.

2. (top of stairs)
At the top of the stairs, the railing has been deliberately designed to belight and open, and to not obstruct the sightline as you ascend from thebedroom level to the living area.

3. (living room)
The fireplace, once a square box against the corner, has been completelyremodelled to create a sleek, attractive focal point - and it gets used everyday in winter. Thanks to the use of the mirror on the wall to the left, thequarter curve is reflected and appears to be semi-circular.

4. (living room closer)
The living room - and indeed the rest of the upper floor - has pearl-likefinish on the walls and ceiling, created using a Venetian plaster with micapowder mixed into it. When it comes to the furnishings, white leather andcanvas, chrome and clear acrylic predominate.

5. (living room, towards kitchen/diner)
The transparent fabric room divider is used every time the couple entertain.Steven, who learnt to cook while living in Paris, does all the pre-dinnerpreparations, while Benjamin does the clearing up afterwards, closing thecurtain so guests are spared the sight of all the mess.

6. (kitchen with dining area)
Sleek surfaces in neutral shades are combined in the minimalist kitchen. The floorfeatures a white terrazzo tile, and the countertop is a solid surface composite.The wall unit doors are white lacquer, while the lower are clad in stainlesssteel, and the backsplash is mirrored.

7. (dining area)
Thanks to the inverted angle of the tabletop's profile, it appears to bethinner than it actually is - and the clear acrylic base helps to give theimpression that it is floating. Faux fur seat pads add a fluffy texture whichcontrasts against the sleeker surfaces in the dining area.

8. (master bedroom)
In the master bedroom a lot of different textures are layered to create anethereal ambience. The bed has four covers on it - the duvet, a sheet, a layerof thin material, and lastly an organza drape that is sheer and cloud-like. Thelamps, which hang from the ceiling on fishing nylon, are decorated with burnedand curled feathers.

9. (twin chests)
During a trip to Barcelona, Benjamin and Steven fell in love with Gaudi'sdesigns - and bought this
pair of chests on their return. Not fond of the originalmulticoloured finish, they had them lacquered in white. The pair of Spanishceramic mirrors were bought from an antique dealer in New York, who had surprisinglyacquired them separately.

10. (lamps)
These two lamps, on the windowsill in the master bedroom, are based on originalsfrom the 1940s. Created by Benjamin for a Mondrian hotel interior, he removedthe lampshade from the design, and had them refitted with bulbs so they lookedmore modern and in keeping with his own home's interiors.

11. (guest room)
The bed in the guest room can metamorphose from two day beds into a queen-size,with a little rearrangement. The desk by the window is made from a clear acrylicellipse, which echoes a similar shape that can be seen through the window, inthe park across the street. "I always like to pick up something fromoutside," says Benjamin. "It's important to situate an interiorwithin a location."

12. (guest room bed detail)
These reproduction Ming Chinese tables are made of teak, and gained theirlovely weather-beaten finish when they were used outside at Benjamin andSteven's previous home. The acrylic tops were added to integrate the piecesinto the white-on-white decor.

13. (both bathrooms)
Two bathrooms - one with a shower, and one with a tub - sit side by side. Thedrapes behind the glass panel in the foreground can be pulled across to provideprivacy while bathing.

14, 15, 16. (bathrooms, choice of three)
A floor-to ceiling mirror on the farwall of each bathroom, including in the shower, creates the illusion of space.Between the shower area and the bathtub there's an opening in the wall, whichensures the two spaces connect with each other visually.

17. (Benjamin)
Benjamin explains how important it is for him to have a story behind aninteriors project, by way of inspiration. "Sometimes it's an object,sometimes a fairy tale, and sometimes a poem - I especially like haiku,"he says.