A mutual friend in Los Angeles introduced us via email, so we met for the first time one Saturday afternoon when he opened his front door with a big, friendly smile. (He keeps his shoes outside the door. I like that idea of appropriating the hallway.) The second I walked in, I was in awe of his beautiful place. Though it's small, and it's broken up into several small areas, which makes filling them with right-size furniture even more challenging, he's created a warm environment that's elegant, cool and industrial.
Serge is from LA and studied music, but he's always had an interest in design. He grew up watching his mom buy, fix up and sell houses, so he picked up some tricks from her. The rest he learned on his own.
The maybe-500-square-foot space is anchored by a big room at each end--his bedroom on one side, and a wonderfully peaceful "white room" on the other. Connecting them is the entry, where there's a lovely seating cove, a narrow kitchen he never uses but to sit on the counter while talking to guests, apparently, and a tiny bathroom with a giant window he knocked out of one wall, so it looks out--into and past the bedroom--to south-facing windows and views of turn-of-the-century brick buildings. There's another window, from the seating area, that looks into the bathroom and also through the bathroom window to those bedroom windows. Trust me, it works. So although the place is small, there's always some clever view to the outdoors, even if you're skimming past plaster, brick, a clear shower curtain, more plaster, more brick and glass. It's a lot like Serge; his vision is unstoppable.
By the end of my visit we were on the rooftop, climbing ladders and scaling concrete to visit the area Serge has claimed as his workshop. With the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in view, it's the perfectly inspirational place to spray-paint chairs and refinish tabletops.
(Looking at these photos now, they seem dark, and I should've taken more shots of entire rooms. Whoops! You can Google Image him and see more pics of his place. Check out the bathroom pics, since I don't really have a good one here.)
Entry and Sitting RoomBelow, Serge in the doorway. Converse is a hit at this house. In the sitting area, electrical boxes act as sconces and support candles. A twig-and-pencil mirror by Laura Mazza from the Think Gallery. Nearby is the door to the bathroom, and you can see the window into the bathroom on that wall. He installed the checkered marble floors.
From the sitting room, you can look through a window (below, on the right) into the bathroom, and then into the bedroom. That's the shower head visible in the photo. Serge couldn't find just the right Empire-style frame he envisioned should go around this window, so he made one with hundreds of pennies. Only one depicts Lincoln's head, the rest are tails.
prized possession is this crazy-expensive Swedish bed from Hastens, which he got for a great deal because it was a floor model at the Soho store. (He's such a fan of Hastens that the company invited him to tour the headquarters in Sweden, and he's featured on the company's infomercial.) He now sleeps in Hastens heaven, on a bed of horsehair, cotton, flax and other organic materials that's wrapped in the brand's trademark plaid casing.
This room, colored in olive and hazel, looks like Serge. That's him in the kitchen. In the corner, he stacked a suite of bedroom furniture he found in a second-hand store. It's a dramatic way to use vertical space and have storage space. The middle one is filled with laundry.
"wallpapered" the showering area with a shower curtain from Bed Bath & Beyond. The narrow medicine cabinet is actually a repurposed CD case he found on the Upper West Side. Around the bathroom are parts from a meat grinder. The base appears to support the cabinet but is only decorative, and the crank hangs on the wall because it looks good there.
CD case that he strung with wire and uses for the storage of jars and spices.
Flemming Busk's Twilight Sleep Sofa from Design Within Reach. When it's open, like it is here, the mattress covers almost the entire floor. Along another wall, a gigantic mirror stretches from floor to ceiling and is braced by some pipes and other industrial parts. Behind the mirror a "closet" with rows of hangers. Functional and inexpensive. He loves the John Keats line "Beauty is truth," so he took a nail and carved the words into every slat of the wood lath. The Victorian-Gothic mirror is from a friend's mother, and the black medieval-style chandelier is from the famous Billy's Antiques & Props in Soho.
I met up with Serge recently, and we walked around the East Village, went to a bookstore, ate pastries and looked at decor magazines. Such fun! He told me he'd finally replaced the counters in his kitchen. He also showed me a brand new tattoo: a nine-inch ruler, at half-inch increments, that runs up his right forearm. "In case I forget a tape measure," he says. "When you're pulling stuff from the streets and hauling it home, you want to make sure it's going to fit."