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Tour a Serene Design Oasis Inspired by Japanese Modernism

Designer Sandra Weingort and her client Joaquín Mollá had a symbiotic vision for this light-filled apartment on NYC’s Lower East Side

When designer Sandra Weingort sat down to discuss this project with her client Joaquín Mollá, an Argentinian advertising executive and longtime student of Buddhism, he explained that he wanted her to make his New York pied-à-terre into “the home of a 70-year-old man with an affinity for Japanese Modernism, design, and culture.” Though Mollá is relatively young, Weingort understood his vision perfectly.

The two had recently met at his brother’s Miami home, another project of the designer’s, where on the tour of that recently completed space, Mollá pointed out all of Weingort’s favorite design elements. Mollá is a design lover, contemporary art connoisseur, and collector of important furniture, Weingort explains, with whom she is aligned stylistically. So much so, that Mollá sent her to two New York apartments and asked her to make the final choice about which one to buy. The designer chose a 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom space on the Lower East Side with “extraordinary light and height, and so much potential to become a cozy home,” she notes.

The first matter of business was to warm up the apartment, originally a white box, while simultaneously adding some edge, personality, and soul. Naturally accentuating the rooms’ expansive height, Weingort exposed and meticulously restored the existing concrete slab above, yielding much-needed depth, texture, and patina. “I wanted it to feel authentic and raw, with evidence of the hand, so I didn’t let the contractor use any machines,” she says of the ceilings.

In order to underscore the apartment’s innate sense of space and airiness, Weingort made the decision to design with low furniture. Both the designer and client agreed that with so much available light, they had the opportunity to use deep, dark colors and rich materials without it looking heavy or drab. The infusion of mixed wood tones and aged steel underscored a warm intimacy throughout. The designer had just four months to complete the project, but because she and her client spoke the same visual language, the process felt seamless. Their shared love of Japanese and midcentury furniture—an alluring mix of Jeanneret, Nakashima, found wabi-sabi, and African pieces—paired with Molla’s contemporary art collection made the project move smoothly and quickly.

“It needed a lot of work,” Weingort says, looking back. “But it always had good spirit.”

Check out the full article by Architectural Digest here.

Joyce Rey
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