When the owner of a renovated Mid-City cottage approached designer Reynaldo Gonzalez, the owner made it clear that the job was more collaboration than carte blanche assignment.
"[The client] has phenomenal taste," says Gonzalez, who is known for his streamlined style. "He loves fashion, he loves the music scene in New Orleans and he has a very refined eye. He really knows what he likes in furniture and overall look, but needed someone to guide him in executing it."
Over the next year, client and designer considered hundreds of furnishings and objects. "[The owner] was interested in each piece having a lot of character and weight," Gonzalez says. "We entertained a lot of different options."
The two considered 20 chandeliers for the dining room, more than 40 shades of purple for a single pair of chairs and 20 types of beads for a 1970s-inspired partition — just to name a few. The result is the kind of cool, bespoke interior that shelter magazines love and the client envisioned.
Outside, the early 20th-century Arts and Crafts bungalow resembles many homes in the area, classic in its architecture and modest in character. But the interior reads like a sophisticated Manhattan loft. The renovated space, which has almond-colored hardwood floors and a minimalist concrete fireplace, is furnished with sleek statement furniture and bold contemporary art, all of which required hours of research and attention to detail.
The dining table is an apt example. The client saw the piece in SoHo. Rather than ordering one through a showroom, he and Gonzalez oversaw every detail of building one, sizing the table to fit the space, selecting each slat for the walnut top, choosing the finish (black walnut dipped in ash) and specifying the placement of the inlaid bronze fasteners. Likewise, a mirror in the living room, one of Gonzalez's designs, was personalized for the project. Gonzalez used dimensions suited to the wall above the fireplace, had the mirror made and hand-gilded by local craftspeople and bordered it with Rhodium Red — a color inspired by a Japanese painting the client loved. "That one piece was like giving birth," Gonzalez says.
Gonzalez also designed the coffee table in the living room, picking the slab of polished silver travertine, matching the veining of the tops and sides, matching the color to the rug and giving it the perfect dimensions. The table, which has mitered corners and waterfall sides, weighs 400 pounds and required four men to deliver it to the house.
"The coffee table almost looks like it's growing out of the rug because it has almost the exact colors," Gonzalez says.
His other custom designs for the home include a bench with cone-shaped legs and curly lamb pelts, and a faux crocodile-embossed platform bed.
Because designer and client both travel between New York and New Orleans, they took advantage of resources in both cities. A pair of vintage 1964 chairs came from Venfield on the Upper East Side; the music room's velvet Chesterfield sofa came from Beam, a modernist store in Brooklyn; and the living room's two-toned sofa was made by NY Custom Furnishings. Neumeyer's Custom Millwork, Benson's Upholstery, Intrepid Stone, Brown & Damare and decorative painter Richard Pleisance were among the locals tapped for their expertise.
The outcome is clean and spare, with 90-degree angles and a harmonious balance of opposing forces: neutrals and bright colors, rock 'n' roll edge and spa-like serenity.
"I had a professor who said it's a lot more difficult to design with clean lines," says Gonzalez, who drafted the furnishings individually and in the context of each room so nothing was left to chance. "There is a lot less to distract the eye. When something is ornate, the eye goes to the ornamentation and not to the seams and corners. When you are designing something that is simple, it's important to get it right. Things have to be aligned."
Drafting everything with AutoCAD also provided the advantage of preventing costly mistakes. "If you're going to order an expensive table and you mess up by 6 inches and can't pull a chair out, you've got a problem," he says.
Gonzalez says the payoff of such an exacting process has been well worth the investment. "To be able to interpret someone's vision is incredibly gratifying," he says. "At the end of the day, there's a great sense of satisfaction."