Experiences     Select Work      Archive      Process      Press     About


The New York Times

“Subtract Walls, Add Color.” Louie, Elaine. August 20, 2008.
see full article online here 
see project page here

WHEN Gavin Cutler bought an 1890s Brooklyn brownstone in 2004, he knew he wanted to gut the whole thing. He envisioned the top three floors as a big, open space for himself and his companion, Sundy Procter, and the garden floor as an apartment for his sister, Anne Cutler, and her 7-year-old daughter.

Mr. Cutler hired Robert Young, a Manhattan architect, who had designed a loft for him in New York City and a weekend house in Montauk, to design the 4,000-square-foot space and to incorporate some of his very specific ideas.

Mr. Cutler, 46, a film editor, wanted some rooms to be floating white cubes, and another room to suggest a forest from Maurice Sendak’s children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.” For a range hood over his stove, Mr. Cutler wanted two ducts used as heat vents, like those in Terry Gilliam’s film “Brazil.” Somewhere in the house, he also wanted channel glass and resin, and lots of red and blue.

The house, which evolved to include variations on those ideas, if not always strict adherence, was completed last year, and Mr. Cutler and Ms. Procter, 40, live in a three-story open space, where the only rooms with doors are the three bathrooms and the guest room.

Light shines down from a skylight through an open staircase with glass landings and blue resin treads and from a double-height, floor-to-ceiling window wall in the rear. From anywhere in the house, the couple can glimpse parts of the floors above and below. Mr. Cutler is a partner at Mackenzie Cutler, a film-editing company in Manhattan that is known for its comic television commercials. Ms. Procter once worked there as well, as the executive producer, but resigned in 2005 to study interior design at Parsons and is now a partner in Koppel Procter Design.

Mr. Young said his clients wanted the house to be an open book, where each room was a separate chapter and led to the next. “When you have an open plan, everything has to relate to the next thing,” said Mr. Young, a partner at Murdock Young Architects.

The Brooklyn house was design by triumvirate. Mr. Young’s job was to help shape Mr. Cutler’s ideas, while Ms. Procter became the interior designer. She haunted flea markets to furnish the house. “She is the one who has made it more interesting, more romantic,” Mr. Cutler said.

It was Ms. Procter who found the house in Carroll Gardens. “I knew this was the house,” she said. “I’d already seen 20 homes, and I turned onto the street, and my heart pounded.”

Mr. Cutler liked the house, which he bought for $1.5 million, because it had no detailing left and could be gutted without remorse.

The three tossed out ideas, debated, compromised and built on one another’s suggestions. The renovation cost about $1 million.

First, Mr. Young gently nixed the idea of rooms as floating white cubes. Even though he enlarged the 19-foot-wide house by extending the garden floor by 18 feet and each of the top three floors by 16 feet, there wasn’t the space for that vision.

In came the white planes, sheets of white wallboard, suspended from the wood beams. These pseudowalls define the dining room, the sitting room opposite the kitchen and the second-floor television room.

For the dining room, they used a piece on which Mr. Young and Mr. Cutler had collaborated for Mr. Cutler’s previous home — a black walnut table that seats 10. Ms. Procter found red Ultrasuede chairs at www.1stdibs.com (eight for $1,600), and she saw a hand-blown clear glass Venini chandelier, a splurge of around $10,000, at Lee’s Studio in Manhattan.

Mr. Cutler chose the powder room to act out his Maurice Sendak fantasy. For the walls, Ms. Procter found Anemone, a green shag rug that has cylindrical tufts of fabric that bend and wave as you run your fingers through it. The effect is completed by a marble sink that resembles teakwood.

While the powder room is dark and mysterious, there are bolts of color throughout the house.

A lipstick-red panel 8 feet wide soars 40 feet to the skylight, as if it were shooting through the glass landings. Opposite the red panel is Mr. Cutler’s cherished blue, in the form of translucent blue resin treads on a steel-framed staircase.