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Design NYC Magazine. The Magazine of the Architects and Designers Building


The Perfect Palette

Designer Robert Ventolo creates an environment expertly keyed to his client’s art collection

Sutton Place living room

A love of art, books, and music pervade this Sutton Place living room, with its leather and wood club chairs and the array of geometric cocktail tables. The sofas, rug, and all upholstery fabric are from Holly Hunt.

Like a fashionista who is continually switching out her wardrobe, the cityscape of New York never looks the same for long. And while the likes of Central Park Tower and The Greenwich may be the latest style in residential architecture, there’s something to be said for the snug, classic comfort of a well-turned-out prewar co-op, like this Sutton Place residence designed by Crain & Ventolo.

Sutton Place dining room

Large-scale art works amplify the truly commodious scale of the dining room.

Owned by a dedicated art collector, the home exudes a just-right sense of proportion—not gravitas, but a pleasing air of propriety shot through with a sharp aesthetic curiosity. Anchored by a fireplace, roomy enough for a baby grand piano, and outfitted with streamlined, Art Deco-inspired pieces, the living room exemplifies Robert Ventolo’s informed, measured approach. Neutral walls and fabrics create an unassuming envelop within which the art— including works by Willem de Kooning and Li Feng —is both generously integrated and also allowed to be seen clearly. In the enviously substantial foyer, a black-and-white marble floor forms a grounding geometry that handsomely supports large-scale pieces by Sol Lewitt and Lu Wei.

Sutton Place sitting room

A disparate gathering of pieces gives the sitting room a welcoming at-ease air.

Ventolo loves canvases that hold their own in a room, and he characterizes his creative perspective as Euro-modern-minimalist. “I prefer having a few large pieces rather than many smaller ones,” says the designer, “I find they generate a sense of spaciousness.” This strategy is on dramatic display in the dining room, where large, horizontal works by Sol Lewitt and Qi Baishi seem to extend the already expansive space, set with a mahogany table and chairs. Although the muted palette is evident here, as well as in the sun-filled primary bedroom (graced with Asian notes in the form of antique wood-and-glass Chinese coffee tables and a large ink-and-acrylic work on paper by Wei Ligang), color assumes a more pronounced role in the sitting room, where shades of blue play out in the striped rug and furniture upholstery.

Sutton Place bedroom

Shades of off-white, sand, and brown generate a restful, calm effect in this bedroom. All fabrics by Holly Hunt.

Despite the abundance of art all around, Ventolo has fashioned a home, not a gallery, a multilayered environment that allows the eye to wander freely. There’s a subtle balance, a true partnership in the interplay between the homeowner’s collection and the pieces Ventolo has chosen. Artfully composed, these rooms project a sure, but disarmingly natural poise. Taking them in, one understands that living with art can be as fundamental as breathing, as sustaining as food, as meaningful as family and friends.