Garrow Kedigian

We immediately christened designer Garrow Kedigian’s Upper East Side apartment ‘Garrow’s Garret’, and, apparently like everyone else who visits, said how Parisian it looks. Garrow himself says he was going for ‘the abandoned mansion’ look and says that the French influence on his work is an unconscious channeling of his summer visits to Paris where his grandmother lives. He himself grew up in Montreal where he studied architecture at McGill University but he’s far from the dour monkish-intellectual type that seems to so often characterize architects – he’s charming, intelligent and appealing – he reminded of us of some delicate creature, perhaps a very beautiful little marmoset – and a very hard-working one, at that.

I guess what I find fascinating about this apartment is that it’s not the new hip at all. I personally find this very appealing but ... why have we come to this airline lounge minimalism?

It’s funny because, first of all, I’m from Canada, from Montreal. My mother is Parisian and when I was growing up we spent the month of August in Paris—my grandmother has a fabulous apartment there—and a lot of the work I have come to do has been very influenced by childhood exposure to French design, in a very subtle way ... like I don’t even try to do it but everyone who that comes to my apartment has always said: ‘Oh it’s so French in here.’
Clockwise from above: A recent invitation is tucked beneath an arrangement of dried flowers in the front entryway. The entry console is an antique gesso corbel bracket purchased in London with a glass and brass painted frame mirror purchased in Florence, Italy; Garrow's shoes deposited at the front door.
A silk and wool living room rug with a Greek Key motif was designed by Garrow.
How do Canadians view Americans, would you say?

You know, it’s kind of like ... we consider ourselves to be more of a streamlined, sophisticated version of [the US.] We’re a lot more educated, in general. The population in general has more common knowledge, more geographical information.

When you said earlier that New York intimidated you, what was it that intimidated you?

Well, Canada has 25 million people! The irony is that I worked in Boston for six years, but Boston has such a great reputation for being such an international city, so sophisticated, so social – it’s really a small town. It’s extraordinarily segregated. But in the last two years when I worked for William Hodgins all my jobs were in New York, so I would come down for a week at a time and sort of acclimated to it. Then I would go back to Boston and I would be like ‘Oh my God, I need to get to New York!’
An oversized window valance conceals a short window and effectively heightens and dramatizes the living room window.
The mid-century modern coffee table in the living room is from Todd Romano. The mirror was found at a Boston flea market and Garrow had a picture framer frame the border to increase the overall size and girth of the mirror.
A bronze head of Greek antiquity found at the Marché Saint Paul in Paris makes up the assemblage of other art and antiquities from various travels.
A bronze statue of the dancing fawn of Pompeii stands atop a
‘found’ table in the living room.
An oversized garden urn anchors the far corner of Garrow’s living room.
Above: Garrow’s baby grand piano comes from his childhood home in Montreal.

Right: Views across Garrow’s Upper East Side historic tree-lined
block.
The 18th century French Louis chair belonged to Garrow’s grandmother. The original silk velvet remains because Garrow adores the gently-decayed quality of the fabric.
The Greek key checkerboard carpet adds a contemporary detail to an otherwise traditional room.
An abstract contemporary oil painting by Garrow hangs on the living room bookcases. The frame was found discarded on the Upper East Side. The Empire-style table was purchased from an auction house in Montreal. A model of a staircase was purchased at the Carter
Burden estate sale.
A profile of a bronze Scottie bookend peeks out from the living room bookcase.
View facing towards living room window. A tall upholstered nail-head screen shields the view of the kitchen from the main living area, a black lacquered side-end table from Evergreen Antiques is adorned with Paris flea-market finds.
Did you ever consider working in Paris?

I did, but you know, the Parisians are very insular ... and very, you know, so it’s very hard to make contacts there. It’s very hard for a Canadian – even my grandmother doesn’t consider us to be true French. In America you get tons of referrals, everybody’s happy. Your name propagates. I’ve never had to advertise once.

There’s always someone looking down on someone. But to get back to your apartment, the way it is done is so suggestive of some kind of narrative, and we seem to be ironing that out in these very sleek rooms with no possessions ...

Or when you go into a room and everything is brand new. And even an upholstered chair that’s an antique has been re-covered to the point where it’s so new that you don’t even recognize it. It’s a very competitive New York thing.
Clockwise from above: Simple painted lines at the wall areas add detail and interest to the original bathroom fixtures; A custom carpet strike-off sample from a client order is put to good use as a bath mat
A painted beach scene hangs behind a nearby espresso machine in the kitchen.
[Sian] I’m Jewish and to me it’s more of a Jewish thing ...

I think my Jewish clients are the ones who spend the most money on decorating ...

[Sian] They want new. They would die if you gave them that chair [points to an antique armchair with worn upholstery]

Oh, I know they would die ... they would die.

[Sian] I mean if a WASP had that chair, they would say ‘Oh, it’ll be fine for a few more years.’ That’s the difference.

Exactly. That’s also a really important element in my decorating. That fabric on that chair, it’s the original 18th century velvet. Original! Any other person would have ripped this [fabric] off, and for me, I’m like, no that’s where the beauty is.
An antique Christmas ornament hangs from the door knob of the original 19th century solid wood doors. The bedroom floor is covered by a decoratively-painted sisal carpet. A bust of Neptune from Lexington Gardens keeps vigil from the corner of the bedroom. Garrow’s bedroom. The headboard is from Empire Auctions in Montreal, Canada.
A whimsical ceiling fixture from Carlos de la Puente
illuminates the tray ceiling of the entry foyer.
The grandfather clock is a flea market find. Garrow had it ebonized in a black stain and it now graces the bedroom. Garrow found the French chair from Todd Alexander Romano Antiques.
A desk from Stephen Miller Siegel Antiques in a cerused oak wood with brass hardware and accent trimming, is positioned just beneath Garrow’s bedroom window.
Left: Decorative hardware in a rustic pot; a collection of curtain medallion tie-backs placed on the window ledge.

Below: A pot of bright-red pencils on the desk beneath the window.
An arrangement of throw pillows in some of Garrow’s
favorite fabrics accent the bed.
Custom throw pillows from the Kips Bay Decorator
Showhouse still wrapped in plastic, await a home.
On the bedside table: photos of friends and family and eccentric found objects.
How did you grow up, in the city or the countryside?

I grew up in Montreal, right in the city.

What did your parents do?

My father is a doctor, a pediatrician actually. And my mother is an anthropologist. Both my parents are of Armenian descent. My mother’s family moved to France early-early, before the Armenian genocide and all that stuff, and they’re actually Petrossian, you know the caviar. So they were established gentry. My father’s family on the other side is a contrast. His parents were children of the Armenian genocide – his father was picked up by the Greek army aged four, and they asked him where was he from. And he said ‘I’m from the river’ – ‘Ked’, the first part of our name means ‘river’. My grandparents met each other in an orphanage in Greece. And they eloped, aged 13 and 14 to Egypt, where they worked very hard and raised my father and sent him to medical school. And my mother was raised in Paris, very luxuriously and she wanted to explore the world and went to Egypt. She stayed with friends of her parents whose son was in medical school and his best friend was my father.
The studio area of the office.
Book catalogues, paint chips and accessories neatly slotted into shelves in the workspace. Necessary reading.
Above: View of the design studio, formally the raw attic space of the
apartment area.

Right:
The support beam works as an ingenious divide between the
meeting area and the formal work studio.
Clockwise from above: Fabric samples, sorted by color, are arranged in a small low pigeonhole-style bookcase of the upstairs design studio; A view across the attic studio; An assortment of arranged objects and stacked books.
Do you look back on all that, the Armenian genocide, and wonder how it might have affected you through the generations?

My grandmother was very stern, if you ever complained about something stupid, she was like, ‘Look ...’

Having brought that piano up five floors, when do you play it?

Sundays, I play it on Sundays. I’ve been learning Claire de Lune forever. I played piano for 12 years and when I moved, my parents said take the piano. I was four years old and they said, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ and I said [puts on a spoiled-child voice] ‘I wanna a piano,’ ... you know, little decorating queen that I was ...
by Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge • photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch