ELLE DECOR: This issue’s theme is the handmade. In the age of Instagram, it seems we have to defend the importance of making things by hand more than ever, especially in our world of furniture, fabrics, architecture, and interiors. We wanted to get your thoughts on the topic, especially as it relates to this project. To start, there’s a lot of wood.
BRAD FORD: This apartment had so much craft already built in, especially that wood paneling in the living room. And there was an equal amount of wood paneling in the 135 family room, but it felt like too much with the two rooms being right next to each other. Because so much workmanship had gone into creating the woodwork, we really debated how to handle it. We decided to keep the living room as is, and to retain but paint over the paneling in the family room. It was just too beautiful to get rid of.
The living room’s custom sofa is in a Zinc Textile fabric, the chaise longue and Stilnovo floor lamp are from Lost City Arts, and the leather chair is by reGeneration. The chandelier is by Apparatus, the rug is by Marc Phillips, and the wall paneling and plaster ceiling are original.
ED: Was it hard to reconcile the classic architecture of the space with the way this modern family wants to live?
BF: That’s what they were struggling with when they were thinking about buying this apartment. They had a contemporary loft near Union Square, which they had outgrown. Then they found this place on the Upper West Side. They came to me and said, “We’re modernists, and this apartment is so traditional.” But I told them I loved the juxtaposition. I always think it’s better to have that kind of backdrop with modern furnishings rather than try to weave a narrative with a plain white box.
ED: Let’s talk about the bones of the building. Is it historic?
BF: It’s a prewar Renaissance Revival apartment building. There is a very decorative lobby with sculpted marble walls, and the architecture throughout is really beautiful.
In the family room of a New York City apartment designed by Brad Ford, the sofa is by Flexform, the chairs are by Arflex, and the vintage Italian bookcase is from R.E. Steele Antiques. The cocktail table is by McCollin Bryan from Holly Hunt, and the rug is by Sacco Carpet.
ED: Did the building’s craftsmanship inspire your use of handmade and vintage pieces here? Every piece of furniture seems to tell its own story.
BF: My clients are fond of midcentury pieces, so that was the starting point. And because midcentury furniture is very organic in shape, it works well alongside handcrafted pieces. I’ve never warmed to edgy, kooky furniture. I like timeless style, and I try to find a balance between architecture, art, and furnishings.
ED: There’s a bookcase with finely made, highly detailed inlays, and the library features parquet floors that blend perfectly with the architecture. I thought they were original, but in fact, they are new.
BF: The old floors were handsome and well executed, but they had become too worn to refinish. We wanted to keep the spirit of the apartment and honor its craft, so we ended
up replicating the floors as best as possible.
The 1960s Italian table in the family room is from Gaspare Asaro, the vintage Harry Østergaard chairs are from House of Blu, and the ceramic sculpture on the mantel is by Marcello Fantoni. The mantel is original and the walls are in Benjamin Moore’s Steam.
ED: Is the marble mantelpiece in the dining room new or old?
BF: It’s original, and a wonderful example of craftsmanship. The way that marble is chiseled—it’s just lovely.
ED: And what about the grates you installed for the radiators?
BF: Those were existing, too.
ED: You lucked into the best apartment, Brad!
BF: Oh, I know! It was stunning, and that’s why I was able to reassure the clients that these rooms would be a really cool backdrop for any kind of furniture.
ED: You have become such a huge proponent of craft with Field + Supply, your annual fall makers’ fair in Kingston, New York. How did that come about?
BF: I grew up in a very small town in Arkansas, and the local arts-and-crafts shows were really my first exposure to design. I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Long story short, I noticed a barn in upstate New York that was being renovated. The owner was doing such a beautiful job, and I got to know him and asked, “What are your plans for this property?” He wasn’t sure what to do with it. I said, “Well, I have an idea. Maybe we could just gather some local craftspeople, because there are so many talented people around here, and start a crafts show.” And he said, “Why not? Let’s try it.” The first year was 2014, and we had an immediate response: Nearly 2,000 people showed up! We realized how much interest there is in craftsmanship.
ED: So you now wear two hats—interior designer and booster of the handmade. How do you meld those two worlds?
BF: For me, it’s all about integrity. Whether something is handcrafted or mass-produced, I’m going to support it if it’s done beautifully and consciously. But I do believe strongly in craft because of the skill set that it takes—the patience, the courage, the vulnerability. I insert handmade objects into almost every project I do. They bring character to a home’s narrative. And that’s much more interesting to me than a space that’s been designed to within an inch of its life.