Homepolish designer Marc Houston shapes a cool, cosmopolitan pied-à-terre thanks to some artistic inspiration, iconic silhouettes, and bold swathes of color.
Photos by Sean Litchfield.
When visiting museums, we tend to let the artist’s genius wash over us. On the other hand, when Homepolish designer Marc Houston visits museums, he imagines entire interiors based on the stunning works.
“Henri Rousseau’s The Dream was the inspiration for this space,” Marc tells us. “The entire palette was derived from this painting. I had viewed it while visiting MoMA around the time that I met the client and was enamored with its exotic backdrop, intense punctuations of color, and layers of transparency.”
It wasn’t just the hues that conjured up a vision for Marc. The atmospheric painting aims for an era-specific “exotic” theme, while standing as a significant example of Post-Impressionist art thanks to its geometric lines and over-saturated color. The seemingly opposite characteristics of “wild” and “civilized” provided an interesting exploration of spatial relations. More importantly, it provided the perfect balance for the client’s needs.
The couple loves to travel, and the husband’s business brings him to NYC more and more frequently. A two-bed, two-bath, Columbus Circle pied-à-terre offered a chance to turn his biweekly trips from stopovers in a sanitized hotel to retreats at a home-like sanctuary.
While the large space swims in natural light, it was essentially a collection of white boxes prior to Marc’s involvement. He opted for highly-customized renovations and designs that made the best use of the apartment’s layout.
“With the exception of a spacious master suite, the existing floor plan created a series of narrow, restrictive volumes, so the process became about responsively maximizing every spatial opportunity,” explains the designer. “This led to the implementation of extensive custom architectural solutions to accommodate the various functions and systems in the space.”
One such solution: a custom lighting system that also serves an architectural purpose. With concrete ceilings restricting the use of overheads, Marc chose an artful fix.
“Since the expanses of blank walls demanded large canvases that would require appropriate illumination, the surface track that we implemented enacts an elegant and graphic solution,” Marc explains. ”It snakes its way through the public spaces on a zoned, single run, almost like an architectural docent guiding one through the space.”
The vividly geometric lines of the lighting track slice into the space and set an angular example for the rest of the home. To maintain the clean lines, Marc incorporated equally seamless features throughout the space, like a wall-to-wall window seat that contrasts the deep green sofa with playful terrazzo surfaces on each flank.
“Terrazzo has an inherent purity, sophistication, and timelessness,” Marc says. “It conjures the rich architectural traditions of Italy and its graphic quality adds an element of surprise.”
Enhancing the space’s natural light and tonal palette is an open floor plan that connects both living and dining areas. The striking dining nook features a luxurious leather banquette and airy modern chairs washed in pale tones, to highlight the statement-making table.
“The dining table is a custom design made of powder-coated steel with a base that is meant to evoke a grove of jungle trees,” explains Marc, once again referencing Rousseau’s The Dream. “The banquette is also a custom design of white oak with bronze sabots and graduated channel tufting in nude leather with matching seat cushions on the chairs.”
Industrial materials like steel and bronze could be overpowering, so Marc softened them with thoughtful lines and well-chosen hues.
“The banquette is meant to reference the shapely femininity and long lines of the reclining nude in The Dream,” Marc continues. “It was critical to properly calibrate the shade of the upholstery here, as it sits prominently at the axis of the living room and gallery and is thus a focal point that is visibly accessible from multiple positions in the space. The leather just made sense, both for its aesthetic and connotative properties but also for practicality.”
In private areas like the master and guest bedrooms, Marc’s customization was essential to shaping approachable spaces attuned to everyday life, with each bespoke element created to serve a specific purpose.
Like most New York City apartments, the bedrooms don’t offer unlimited space. To stylishly minimize any potential clutter, the designer swapped the existing closet for an version with a smaller footprint.
“The previous swing closet doors in the guest room severely limited navigation,” the designer shares. “The solution of full-height, sliding mirrored doors increases both accessibility and the visual volume of the room. The doors were no minor feat; it had to be assembled in pieces on site and took five men to hoist the mirror into place.”
Besides solving myriad space solutions, Marc wanted to show off the clients’ impressive tastes. Avid collectors, their global finds, impressive art, and favorite books are on full display thanks to another couture creation. With the help of a group of contractors, Marc created custom foyer shelving in appropriately chic white oak with integrated dimmable LED lighting.
Finding the couple willing to experiment with their style, Marc encouraged them to push their boundaries with unexpected pairings.
“A mix of iconic silhouettes and vintage furnishings establishes a sense of tradition and tempers the severity that can accompany a modern envelope,” Marc shares. “I was thrilled when my clients enthusiastically jumped aboard for a number of these items, all of which are undeniable showstoppers.”
The distinction between soft and strong extends to the material and shape selections. In the master bedroom, a feminine vanity pays homage to the curved shapes and round outlines that defined many spaces featured on Hollywood’s silver screens, but with a modern angle.
“The vanity was one of the client’s specific requests, so the dramatist in me was game for a full-tilt cinematic moment that evokes the sexy boudoirs of ‘40s and ‘50s Hollywood screen sirens,” he shares. “I wondered what the dressing rooms of Rita Hayworth or Sophia Loren would look like in a modern context and wanted to explore geometry, texture, and scale in a manner that was alluring yet restrained.”
Marc’s thoughtful attention and artistic eye resulted in a tactile, surprising, and, of course, inviting home that pushes far past the boundaries of basic interior design.
“It takes an adventurous client to give even preliminary consideration to many of the more intrepid gestures we incorporated,” Marc says. “While some parts were a negotiation—they wanted color, and I think I gave them just enough—it was encouraging and creatively liberating to have their trust. The work undoubtedly reflects the couple’s alacrity.”