A Colourful, Art-Filled New York Apartment
Colour, texture and pattern run riot in a New York apartment whose characterful aesthetic reflects the infectious enthusiasm of its designer owner.
New York City-based designer Doug Meyer is not into monochromatic interiors. ‘I’ve been in some beautiful rooms that are beige and grey and monotone, but they don’t make me happy. Good decoration must stimulate you visually,’ he says.
Doug prefers things that are ‘odd’, and sees his own design schemes as ‘more conceptual, like a piece of art’. His former apartment in Manhattan was a perfect case in point. There, he covered the walls in almost 3000 sheets of paper: there were vertical stripes of 13 different colours in the living room, and rectangles with more than 500 distinct motifs in the bedroom.
Doug’s new home, which he shares with his husband Meade Ali, is equally fantastical, but it required a fair amount of work to get it that way.
Located in a nondescript brick high-rise in Chelsea, the interior of this classic New York apartment was previously unprepossessing and littered with the remains of its previous inhabitants, a young family of hoarders. ‘It was crazy,’ says Doug. ‘Literally, there were paths where you could walk and the rest was just stuff – boxes and kids’ toys and clothes.’
Still, he and Meade loved the location, and the layout worked perfectly for them, especially the fact that the living area was large enough to be split in two. One part is now home to a sitting area; the other to a guestroom-cum-library.
‘We wanted to be able to put people up, but we didn’t want them to stay that long,’ says Doug. ‘It’s comfortable for just one or two nights.’
He compares the space in question, which includes a blue mirrored bookshelf, to a fish tank. ‘A lot of my references come from my childhood, and I remember as a kid there were always aquariums in dentists’ offices,’ Doug says. ‘I was fascinated looking at those little worlds.’
The apartment’s most striking feature is, without question, the candy pink sculptural partition that divides the living area. Christened ‘Deep Space’, it takes its inspiration from sci-fi movies and topographical maps, and features a series of portholes and antennae sticking out from it.
Made from wood, metal, epoxy and painted plaster, it took Doug four months to construct, and its eclectic aesthetic is echoed in many of the home’s walls.
Glazed ceramic panels influenced by Brutalist architecture and the works of Louise Nevelson feature throughout, while back-painted glass cladding decorated with micro organism-like motifs greets visitors as they enter the home.
In the living area, one wall is adorned with an expanse of mirrored Plexiglas, a material for which Doug has a particular predilection. ‘When light hits it, it warps reflections and just creates this bizarre quality,’ he says.
On top of it, a 17th century portrait of a woman takes pride of place, reflecting Doug’s love of layering art over mirrors. ‘It adds so much depth to a space,’ he says.
This bold explosion of colour and texture is balanced out by a few quieter moments, and several walls are finished in a simple red-oak veneer – a nod to a New York apartment decorated by the late iconic designer Angelo Donghia, that Doug visited in the 1970s after moving to Manhattan from his native Kentucky.
‘It was just so grand and cool, and very modern for that moment in time. It always stuck with me,’ he says.
Meade, meanwhile, insisted on the bedroom being grey, a design decision that led to Doug jokingly referring to it as ‘The Prison’ – and sneaking in a few select touches of pink and blue.
When it came to this New York apartment’s furniture, a large majority of it was custom-made. There is a cabinet Doug designed specially to display his book, Heroes, which features portraits of 50 artistic figures who died from AIDS.
There is also a jewel-like console with protrusions sprouting from it. ‘I love things that look like they’re growing out of something,’ he says. ‘I always find it boring for the surface of a piece of furniture to be flat.’
His own creations may be highly decorative, but he also wanted other elements that were freer and easier.
The Warren McArthur chairs in the sitting area, for instance, were specifically chosen because they fold up. ‘I love that things are movable,’ Doug says. ‘That way, they’re not that precious or permanent.’
His enthusiasm about the apartment is certainly quite infectious. “When you create something, whatever it is, you just get so excited,’ Doug says. ‘I love looking at this stuff.’
Still, not everyone shares his fervour – an attitude that constantly bemuses him. ‘A lot of people say, “How do you live like this?” But for me, this is totally normal. This is just how I think!’