ELLE DECOR: This apartment is so pristine. Is it your primary residence?
KEVIN BYRNE: No. It’s a pied-à-terre. My partner and I also have a place in Florida and another out on Long Island, in Sag Harbor. This Manhattan apartment is an easy commute to Berkeley College in Paramus, New Jersey, where I teach.
ED: What made you choose this particular building?
KB: It’s a fabulous space. I have a passion for architecture, and there just aren’t that many architecturally significant residential buildings in Manhattan. We also find that our aesthetic is similar to that of Richard Meier, and we knew he was very much involved in this building and took a great deal of pride in it, so we were confident it would be well built.
ED: How big is the apartment?
KB: It’s 703 square feet, more than half of which is the main room. And it’s not the smallest place we looked at. When we first saw it, in 2008, the apartment was really just a big bedroom. But it also has floor-to-ceiling windows, great views of the Hudson River, and 11-foot-high ceilings. The architecture is subtle, but it’s masterful and elegant, with intelligent touches such as the small soffit—to which I added lights—that runs around the perimeter of the ceiling.
ED: How finished was the space when you purchased it?
KB: It was finished to Richard Meier’s specifications, right down to the hardware, almost exactly the way you see it now. The cabinets were matte lacquered; the countertops in the kitchen and bathroom are all Corian, and the floor is stained wenge wood. We added the ripple-fold sheers (solar shades came with the unit).
ED: What were your major innovations?
KB: I added a small wall to create the sense of a foyer and to separate the main living area from the front door, and I created a pass-through that opens up the kitchen to the living area. The biggest change was the storage wall with the Murphy bed in it. I matched the cabinetry to the wall color. The detailing echoes that of the kitchen cabinets.
ED: Why a Murphy bed?
KB: I’ve always thought they were kind of fun, and they are very efficient—especially in a small space. If we were just using the apartment for sleeping, a regular bed might be fine, but I like to cook, and I don’t like the idea of entertaining guests in the middle of my bedroom. When the bed is up, people just assume there’s a bedroom down the hall somewhere. I also find the bed to be very comfortable.
ED: Was the design process much different from working for a client?
KB: From a space-planning perspective, all interior design projects are a lot like solving a puzzle. This one was relatively simple since we knew how we wanted to use the space and it had generous proportions and a good layout to start with.
ED: Do you have a special attraction to white?
KB: I’m in a white phase right now. To me, white is fresh and comforting and upbeat. I find it easy to live with. Plus, the weather affects the color, so the white changes with the light. It’s one shade on a sunny day, another if it’s raining.
ED: What color are the walls?
KB: It’s a Richard Meier custom color called Getty White, which he developed when he designed the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
ED: What are some of your tips for creating an all-white room?
KB: When I do a white room I leave myself the option of using colorful accent pieces. I like layering in any case, but a white room seems to call out for texture to give it some visual oomph, which is the idea behind the fur rug on top of a larger wool rug. And I use a pearl- or satin-finish paint for high-traffic areas since it’s easier to keep clean.
ED: Did you choose the furniture because it matched the architecture?
KB: Not exactly. I’d say we chose the apartment and the furniture because they each speak to our aesthetic. The great thing about these classic modernist pieces is that they look terrific anywhere. You could just as easily use them in a 19th-century shingle-style house at the beach.
ED: How do you entertain in this room?
KB: If it’s dinner for four, we use the little Parsons table. We have folding chairs and some additional Bertoia chairs in a storage locker. If we’re having six for dinner, we use a round top on the table covered with a cloth. Either way, I serve buffet-style on the pass-through.
ED: What do you like most about your apartment?
KB: I like everything about it. I love the views, the way the light changes. It’s a joy to come home to at the end of a busy day.
What the Pros Know
• Designer Kevin Byrne favors white for a small space: “It opens up any room and makes it look bigger than it is.”
• Byrne believes that a dark-wood floor can ground a white room, but only if the ceilings are high enough; otherwise a dark floor can make a white room look squatter than it is.
• Sheer curtains filter light and add both softness and glamour to a space. “These clean, modern ripple-fold sheers are made from a Kravet fabric,” he says.