Loft Tour: Karim Rashid’s Playful Pop Palace
by raul barreneche
The Matrix couch, which Rashid designed for Meritalia, creates a visual anchor in the eclectic living room
There are few designers as prolific as Karim Rashid. The 51-year-old Egyptian-born, Canadian-reared Rashid has designed thousands of objects, from the mundane to the literally out of this world, with jazzy curves, jaunty angles, and a wildly futuristic Pop aesthetic. His creations include kitchen appliances, perfume bottles and CD players, sinks and plumbing fixtures, and a curvaceous plastic waste bin for Umbra that may be Rashid’s most recognizable object. He has also designed condominiums in Miami; hotels in Tel Aviv, Bangkok, and Hamburg, and restaurants in New York; and most recently, gold wedding bands that will be sent into outer space. He has also had a hand in designing furniture with wacky, wild Op-Art patterns, including metallic vinyl upholstery, wavy glass tabletops, and lacquered cabinet fronts.
One benefit of having designed a plethora of pieces, most of them produced by Italian manufacturers like Casamania, Tonelli, and Zeritalia, is that Rashid never needs to buy anything. When he and his Serbian-born wife, Ivana Puric, a chemical engineer who works in the beauty industry, moved into a newly renovated loft development in Chelsea, Rashid asked her to pick favorites from among his archives of production pieces and prototypes as well as the contents of his former apartment. What the couple have assembled is a veritable carnival of pastels and prints in quirky shapes. The sofa, a piece Rashid designed for Meritalia called “Matrix,” is a riot of electric colors and Spirograph patterns. So is the dining table, which has a bipolar laminate of looping pink swirls wrapping one half, and a linear pattern over a light blue background on the other. The modular mini-sofa with metallic silver, gold, magenta, and hot pink vinyl cushions doesn’t have a single straight line to it.
The couple did very few renovations on the whitewashed loft, aside from the concrete shower, tub, and sink that came with the master bath. “It was too dark and depressing for us,” says Rashid. The most significant alteration was replacing a wall between the bedroom and living area with frosted glass panels and a pocket door. In the bathroom they brightened things up considerably, tiling the shower in colorfully patterned ceramic “digipop tiles” designed by Rashid for Italian manufacturer Refin Ceramiche. Gone are the dreaded concrete sinks, replaced by a pair of shapely pink fiberglass basins Rashid created for South Korean company Saturn Bath.
The sinks are far from the only rosy touch. The couple had pale pink vinyl floors installed in the living area and magenta carpeting in the master bedroom. Karim and Ivana share a closetful of clothes in hot pink, magenta, and rose—both his and hers—all hung on bubblegum-colored hangers. “I’ve loved pink since I could remember,” says Rashid. “When I met Ivana at a show of my work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, I was dressed head-to-toe in neon pink. She loved it. That confirmed I had met the right woman,” he jokes. Their cabinets are filled with china, crystal, and cutlery in multiple shades of pink. And the couple’s bichon frise, Kiki (her name is a play on Karim and Ivana’s initials), sleeps on a pink cushion in a pink cage and chews on a hot-pink bone.
Adding to the eye candy are Rashid’s eclectic collections. Windowsills and tabletops are lined with colorful pieces by Rashid’s former teachers and mentors, including legendary Memphis Group designers Ettore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini, and Gaetano Pesce. “Their designs are over 30 years old but still so contemporary and vivid,” notes Rashid, who in the 1980s studied with Sottsass in Naples and later worked in the Milan studio of designer Rodolfo Bonetto. More collections—of whimsical travel souvenirs, dozens of (mostly pink) sunglasses, and a Rubik’s Cube (in pink, naturally) signed by inventor Erno Rubik—are displayed in a retro-looking glass-fronted armoire in the master bedroom (the “Lotus,” designed for Italian furniture maker Tonelli). One shelf is dedicated to favorite electronics from Karim’s past, including a 1960s Panasonic radio and a Sony Walkman from the 1980s. “It’s a living timeline of my life and design,” says Rashid, whose newest collecting habit is eye-popping works by artists Caetano de Almeida, Dalek, and Gerold Miller.
What’s here today may be gone tomorrow. Every few months, furniture and art gets rotated—maybe a prototype for Rashid’s latest table is added or an old chair is dug up from storage. “It’s like a dynamic, revolving gallery,” says Rashid, whose father changed and rearranged furniture and artwork monthly in the family’s Toronto home. “I find I have the same habit.” Any day now, the current 14-foot-long dining table will be hauled down eight flights of stairs and replaced by a wooden table from Rashid’s newly launched Ottawa collection for BoConcept.
Could Rashid ever live in minimalist surroundings? “I would happily live in a monastic white box,” says Rashid. “But only if it could be filled with the most colorful objects and furniture.”
photography by eric striffler
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.