Friday, February 17, 2012

Christopher Coleman and Angel Sanchez

We have interviewed Christopher Coleman before when he lived in Tribeca—alas we must have made little impact because he doesn’t remember any of it—no matter, it was a good interview last time and an even better one this time, partly because his partner, the Venezuelan fashion designer Angel Sanchez joined us. Do you know he is the “Michael Kors” of the South American versions of Project Runway? Just goes to show how insular our worlds can become when we forget about the sophistication and economic reach of other countries. Christopher and Angel’s Williamsburg apartment was recently on the cover of 'Architectural Digest Russia' as well as in eleven other design magazines around the whole world, a tribute to a very distinctive style sensibility that, as Christopher candidly says, “photographs well.”

Christopher in his Tribeca apartment in 2006.
Let’s talk about this new place you have because the last time we interviewed you, you were living in Tribeca. Why did you move?

Christopher: [sings] Tell me why … we moved because Angel sold his apartment in Caracas.

Angel: And we liked Williamsburg, when we were shopping around for a new place … and I like it. It’s very hip.

Is it a bit too hip?

Angel: Maybe. Tribeca was very cool looking but then you begin to see all the families …

Christopher: But it’s happening here … already it’s like stroller-ville.

You can’t get away from them! They’re like some kind of menace.

Christopher: There should be a law for those double strollers In DUMBO [where Christopher has his office] you can’t get down the sidewalks.

I’m curious though because your style is not at all like what I see when I walk around these Brooklyn areas – the style around here is full of retro-nostalgia, a kind of Victorian thing going on. What do you make of this amazing degree of nostalgia in all these Brooklyn restaurants and shops?

Christopher: I feel old. The nice thing is that we have a teeny little place in Columbia county in the woods and it’s all woodsy.

So that’s you’re alter ego.

Angel: When we moved here we wanted something young and fresh, something colorful and happy.
A geometric wall covering hangs behind a chair designed by Jean-Claude Castelbajac purchased at the International Contemporary Art Fair. A rolling ladder helps with out-of-reach objects and books.
In the kitchen a custom vinyl wall covering was inspired by 1950's Latin American art.
Brushed stainless steel countertops neutralize the otherwise bold colors of the kitchen area.
Angel, preparing coffee.
A peek into the refrigerator.
Yes, I remember the style of your old apartment – you have a very distinctive style – but there wasn’t the color that you have here.

Christopher: To me a punch of red is happy. This apartment has been in eleven magazines around the world in six months. Now we’re on the cover of Architectural Digest Russia, all over the world: Japan, Hong Kong …

Why do you think that is?

Christopher: It photographs well.

Last time we interviewed you, you said very funny things about Russians and their taste …

Christopher: Well, I had a Russian client at the time.
Looking towards the main seating area. Christopher's ingenious mix of bold colors and geometric patterns fills the roughly 1200 square foot one-bedroom that he shares with his partner Angel Sanchez.
A wing chair 'on steroids' from Prague Kolektiv in Dumbo is upholstered in a wool dhurrie purchased during a trip to Dubai. Christopher expanded a couch found in Florida to fit neatly into the living room corner. The throw pillows were made by Angel. The ceiling fixture is from Treadway Auction Gallery in Chicago.
From the kitchen to the living room.
A red patent leather wall panel hides the entrance to the master bedroom.
Looking across Christopher and Angel's light-filled seating area toward the outdoor terrace. The black wall-to-wall carpet was a remnant from ABC Carpet.
Bold yellow flowers pop off a wire-base round coffee table from Neven and Neven in Hudson, New York.
A close up of the dhurrie-covered wing chair from Prague Kolektiv.
A multi-colored acrylic screen wraps around the apartment's spiral staircase.
Looking down and across Christopher and Angel's distinctive Williamsburg apartment. The assertive mix of inexpensive material in bright colors and patterns creates a cohesive look that reflects Christopher's design-on-a-dime design philosophy.
How have things changed since we last interviewed you?

Christopher: Things are, of course, more difficult. Thank God for Angel because he has really  helped us with clients in Latin America. Because of the situation in Venezuela they’re either moving to Miami or New York. We’re working now half here and half in Miami. We have a shoebox in Miami.

How is your Spanish?

Christopher: Horrible [pronounces it as a Spanish word] How’s yours?

Did you just fall in to working together and you’d never really intended to?

Christopher: Well Angel was freaking out because business was really slow and I said, you’re really good at interiors. I get so jealous – he can sketch a room in five minutes and it takes me half a day. And he’ll get his whole point across. And if I work with him, we make a lot of money because he’s like: “You’ve gotta have this!” Decorators I admire, I see them in the D&D and they’re “Oh! This is it!” and their client is so intimidated, that they take whatever the decorator tells them.
A red patent leather panels slides to reveal Christopher and Angel's bedroom. The headboard is made out of Liberty of London fabric. Cantilevered bedside tables from CB2 were lacquered at an automobile paint shop.
A grouping of three side chairs forms a bench in front of the bedroom's flat screen TV.
A view into the main entrance from behind the red door.
Towering floor-to-ceiling bookcases define a wall of the seating area. The shelves are staggered with primary-colored objects, art and books.
How does the taste of your Venezuelan clients differ from clients of other nationalities?

Christopher: Well, it’s interesting. I have just done a project for some younger clients so they’re much more modern [in their taste]. There is the stereotype: yesterday I was in Bed, Bath & Beyond looking for something and there were these very Upper East Side types but they were speaking Spanish and they were looking at gilded duvets and burgundy … very heavy. But these young Venezuelans were much more with-it.

In what ways do you differ yourselves, taste-wise?

Angel: I like more minimal. Chris likes more color. And if I have to pick between an old sofa and a new one, I choose the new one.

Christopher: I like junk shops, vintage shops and vintage clothes. Angel won’t go in. He says it smells. But I say, “Look at the cut!” There’s a fantastic junk shop here. It’s just called “Junk” on a big neon sign. The other day I found two high-backed banquettes. You could put them together and they make a complete circle. I couldn’t even make them for less than a thousand and they were $250 for the pair.
A white upstairs loft space is punctuated with strokes of blue and a confetti rug. The graphic print in the right hand corner is from Lumas Editions in SoHo.
A small acrylic side chair from Andrew Martin is covered in a steel blue vinyl punctuated with nail heads.
Photos of Christopher and Angel on the study desktop.
So now that you have a bigger space, do you get along better?

Christopher: Angel, she says now that we have a bigger space, do we get along better?

Angel: He complains … he always complains. We don’t have enough closets.

Christopher: I’m the New York complainer. It’s the smallest closet I’ve ever had in my life. I learned from my mother, I never get rid of anything. We have three storage units.
Views of Williamsburg and downtown Brooklyn are visible from all rooms of Christopher and Angel's apartment.
Looking down the spiral staircase from the upstairs study.
So tell us what you like about Williamsburg.

Christopher: I like that it’s laid back. And it’s the best for food. It’s less expensive to eat here. And I love the music. I wake up and people are strolling in the streets at 11 am in the morning and I’m like, don’t they work? Then I realize that everybody is a musician. It’s a night scene. There are so many music venues.

But isn’t the average age about sixteen?

Christopher: Seventeen-and-a-half, they say.

I felt like I needed a walker when I got off the subway!

Christopher: Yes, very young.

Angel: My friends, when we invite them over from Manhattan, they think it’s so far!

Christopher: We invited a bunch of Venezuelan friends and they were worried, you know “Is it okay?” I said, “No, if I were you, I’d bring a handgun. Tell us when you arrive downstairs. We’ll hire a guard that night.”
The 'facilities'.
Tell us about Caracas.

Angel: Well, Caracas these days is very dangerous.

Christopher: It’s one of the most dangerous cities in the world, behind Baghdad and those kinds of places. The US State Department recommends that no one goes. You can be kidnapped as a tourist as you leave the airport. I say it is the new Cuba.

Is this all because of drugs?

Angel: And Chavez.

Christopher: But before, it was fabulous. You know they had the first Dior boutique in Latin America and the people are wonderful.

Angel: Yes, such lifestyle. A quality of life that you could never have now … time and long lunches.

Christopher: When I first met Angel, everyday he went home for lunch. And it was served with linens and the housekeeper had prepared the meal. There was always a soup and a salad and then he would take a nap!

So it this it or are you setting your sights on other places?

Angel: Honestly, I want to go to back to the city eventually. I want to give Chris a bigger closet.

• Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge • Photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch