His Home in His Castle
Interior designer Charles Allem skips the throw pillows and frills to create the apartments at 254 Park Avenue South, an address worthy of a Manhattan man.
By Kathryn Wilson
GOTHAM: You’re the perfect New York designer, but you left for Miami in 2005. Why?
CHARLES ALLEM: I was completely over New York! I had offices on University and Broadway, but I said to myself, Miami is closer than the Hamptons. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour plane ride. I set up my headquarters here and thought it would be calmer than New York—but it’s turned out to be more intense. I guess you take yourself wherever you go.
G: How do you create a design worthy of a man’s man?
CA: I love feminine interiors, but I don’t like a lot of throw pillows. First of all, clean lines are more masculine. Your shelving is thicker; your countertops tend to go four to six inches. And everything becomes more monolithic and cleaner. I’m not too big on traditional interiors—I think they’re great in museums. It’s fabulous to have pieces from different periods put into a more modern experience. I call that more transitional.
G: Tell us about your first NYC development, 254 Park Avenue South.
CA: I’m a great believer in design following one concept and one theme. The thought process behind Park Avenue South was that it’s urban. There was marketing for the Wall Street guy, the masculine guy. Though I do believe that a woman can definitely live in that apartment—if she’s comfortable with her masculine side.
G: I’m guessing you didn’t design a kitchen worthy of Martha Stewart?
CA: The dining room, living room, and kitchen are all one because people are on the move. I don’t think 90 percent of New Yorkers cook at home, unless, of course, they have a chef. Here, it’s more a prep kitchen, a place where you can have some friends, toss a fabulous salad, or do a bowl of pasta with a bottle of wine. And that’s a great dinner in New York.
G: And the bathrooms?
CA: I’m not a lover of granite at all—I think it looks great on tombstones and driveways. We used beautiful lava stone, and quartzes in great colors. This is very sleek, very sophisticated. Great cantilevered cabinetry in ebony wood. Beautiful walk-in showers—I think today most people love showers. The spa feeling of my bathrooms definitely fits that. You can be in that bathroom and feel luxurious and comfortable without being intimidated. It’s very calming—especially in New York, where you feel the chaos every day.
G: We hear the spaces are tall, dark, and handsome.
CA: The building has these massive ceilings and high windows, so I thought that called for darker woods because the height and the light compensate for the darkness. The shell is very important. In three to five years’ time, people want to change their sofas or their chairs, but I think the shell should remain very classical and architectural but contemporary in style. Sometimes contemporary can get sort of cold. This is very warm. It’s sexy, it’s alluring, it’s inviting. Visit cadintl.com or 254pas.com.
Photographs by Moris Moreno (ALLEM); Peter Rymwid (INTERIOR SHOTS)
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.