Elle Decor
Gold Rush
December 2009

Elle Decor Gold Rush 2009Elle Decor Gold Rush 2009

Elle Decor Gold Rush 2009

Elle Decor Gold Rush 2009

Elle Decor Gold Rush 2009

Clockwise from top: The master bedroom’s cherry-wood fourposter, a Tsao & McKown design, is dressed with bedding from Calypso Home. In the dining room, a Venini light fixture,
Bernard Quentin table, and chairs by Charles Hollis Jones; the totem sculpture is by Elaine Katzer, and the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Blackened. The gold-leaf wall covering in the master bath is by Phillip Jeffries. The master bedroom vanity features a T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings console and a chair and brass lamp by Karl Springer. The lacquer console is by Tommi Parzinger, the print is by Andy Warhol, and the zebra rugs belonged to Geoffrey Beene. Facing page: Plaster torchieres by Serge Roche and Pedro Friedeberg’s Hand Foot chair; the terrazzo floor and mirrored fireplace with flanking velvet pilasters are from Tsao & McKown’s original design. See Resources

 

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GOLD RUSH

Text by Anthony Barzilay Freund | Styled by Carlos Mota | Photography by Roger Davies

With a fearless eye and a passion for distinctive 20th-century furnishings, decorative-arts dealer todd Merrill crafts a gleaming ode to high style at his Manhattan triplex.

TUCKED INTO a historic Greek Revival row house on a tidy tree-lined street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the swaggering 20th-century interiors of Todd Merrill’s apartment might at first seem an unlikely fit. But not for the well-known furniture-and-accessories dealer. “I’m drawn to the unexpected, the one-of-a-kind, the exuberant,” he says.

Indeed, the vibrant two-bedroom triplex he shares with his television-producer wife, Lauren, is filled with head-turning furnishings—all lacquer and gilt and elaborate detailing by such larger-than-life designers as James Mont, Tommi Parzinger, Karl Springer, and T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings— cohabitating in surprising yet splendid harmony. “I was looking for a space where we could live with what I was selling,” Merrill says, referring to his nearby eponymous store. Stocked with unique and custom studio pieces from the 1920s through the ’90s, the shop attracts the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Lenny Kravitz, and others who prefer their decor with a dash of rock-and-roll flash. “I also wanted a place where I could move away from the period American furniture of our past few homes and of my childhood,” explains Merrill, who grew up in Burlington, Vermont, surrounded by folk art and early Americana. His grandparents were prominent antiques dealers, and his father, Duane, is a noted auctioneer. “I wanted a design lab and showcase for what we do in my gallery.”

Architects Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown designed the apartment in 1986 for Tsao’s sister in one of their first residential projects, and it was promptly heralded for its modernist drama. When a Realtor showed it to the Merrills in 2008, they were intrigued by the unusual amalgam of influences: neoclassical, Zen, and even a bit of surrealism—inspired by Magritte, Tsao flanked the living room fireplace with red velvet pilasters that he called frozen curtains. “I confess I didn’t quite know what to make of it when I first walked in,” Merrill says. “I’d never seen anything like it.” The unexpected quirkiness, plus wonderful details that included a richly patterned terrazzo floor inlaid with multihued bronze, a built-in cherry-wood platform four-poster in the master suite, and a bronze-painted spiral staircase convinced him that “restoring the place to its 1980s glamour,” as he says, would be well worth the refinishing and repainting required after years of wear and tear.

The gamble paid off. “We couldn’t have found a better spot for us—and our furniture,” Merrill states. “Whatever I put in here, whether it’s from the ’30s or the ’90s, looks amazing.” His penchant for pieces with character is immediately apparent upon entering the living room, where artist Pedro Friedeberg’s ’60s gilded Hand Foot chair waves its weird welcome. It mingles with eye-catching Serge Roche plaster torchieres on either side of the fireplace, graphic zebra rugs from fashion designer Geoffrey Beene’s house in Oyster Bay, New York, and a dazzling 1938 Baguès chandelier that once hung in Elsa Schiaparelli’s London atelier.

Then there’s the furniture by artisans with biographies as compelling as their work, notably the charismatic Mont, a self invented rogue whose clients, according to Merrill, included Lana Turner and “mobsters on both coasts.” Mont’s creations dominate the living room, from his sofa and side table to what the homeowner calls a “Deco meets Moderne meets Asian Modern” cinnabar console from 1958 that he admits he originally thought “was the ugliest piece of furniture I’d ever seen.” But Merrill likes nothing more than being challenged, and Mont’s “decadent, fantastical aesthetic” quickly grew on him. In a stroke of curatorial mischief, he placed a rare ’50s yellow lacquer Parzinger console across from the one by Mont. “The two men hated each other, but I enjoy the face-off here,” the dealer says with a grin. (Mont and Parzinger are among the many trailblazing studio-furniture craftsmen featured in a book Merrill co-authored, Modern Americana [Rizzoli, 2008].)

Clockwise from top: The master bedroom’s cherry-wood four poster, a Tsao & McKown design, is dressed with bedding from Calypso Home. In the dining room, a Venini light fixture, Bernard Quentin table, and chairs by Charles Hollis Jones; the totem sculpture is by Elaine Katzer, and the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Blackened. The gold-leaf wall covering in the master bath is by Phillip Jeffries. The master bedroom vanity features a T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings console and a chair and brass lamp by Karl Springer. The lacquer console is by Tommi Parzinger, the print is by Andy Warhol, and the zebra rugs belonged to Geoffrey Beene. Facing page: Plaster torchieres by Serge Roche and Pedro Friedeberg’s Hand Foot chair; the terrazzo floor and mirrored fireplace with flanking velvet pilasters are from Tsao & McKown’s original design. See Resources

Enhancing the glitz factor is the heavy use of metallic finishes throughout the residence. “I love gold, silver, and surfaces that reflect light,” he says. Case in point: the late-’70s polished steel-tiled table by Bernard Quentin in the downstairs dining room/kitchen overlooking the lushly planted private garden. The table is surrounded by striking Lucite seats made by Charles Hollis Jones in 1968 for his friend Tennessee Williams, who dubbed them Wisteria chairs. “Most people wouldn’t think to pair the table with those chairs,” Lauren notes. “But Todd somehow always knows what works.”

His approach, as Merrill explains, “is all about the wow factor, and sometimes that means pushing right to the edge of good taste. But if you don’t push, life’s pretty dull.” He adds, “I don’t want to sell something that looks like everything else out there. And I definitely don’t want to live with it.”

Todd Merrill Studio
80 Lafayette Street
New York NY 10013
Phone: 212 673 0531
Website: www.ToddMerrillStudio.com
E-mail: info@ToddMerrillStudio.com
Instagram: @ToddMerrillStudio
Todd Merrill Summer Studio
11 South Main Street
Southampton, NY 11968
Phone: 631 259 3601