Designing dreams

Designing dreams

Designing dreams

By his own admission, Paul Palandjian is a guy who has always been rigorously focussed. Harvard-educated, a former professional tennis-player and the scion of a family of real estate developers who joined the family business. His tastes were conservative, particularly in architecture. After all, he grew up outside Boston. But, something happened to Palandjian, who is now 46 and a consultant in defence, security and intelligence, when he began collecting contemporary art.

“One day, I was literally standing in the MoMA bookstore, surrounded by all these books on architecture, and I was like, “Whoa” he said recently. “I thought art was various mediums, not building forms. Not architecture. That’s how unsophisticated I was”.

Eagerly, he began to educate himself, progressing quickly from the classicism of Edwin Lutyens to the birth of modernism in Europe to contemporary practitioners. Shigeru Ban and Tadao Ando became his touchstones. Then, in 2005, he discovered Rick Joy, an Arizona-based architect who had just won a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award. “I didn’t even know what that was,” Palandjian said. But, he was unaccountably moved by the simple, monumental forms that Joy was known for producing.

It was around that time that Palandjian had another awakening. He was in Nantucket, where he and his wife, Dionne, had a summer home, and he realized, “that it was no longer an escape. Every night was a charity event. Our kids were growing up too fast. You go somewhere to get away from it all and you realize it’s all just followed you there.” So, they sold the house and bought an old farm in Woodstock, Vermont and Palandjian contented himself with riffling through the pages of his architecture books and dreaming of work by Joy.

Dream home

When he shared this with a friend one day, the friend suggested the obvious, as Palandjian recalled, “So why don’t you call him up?” What Joy eventually built for Palandjian and his family was a barn-shaped stone-and-shingle house as simple as a child’s drawing, nestled into a valley among 210 acres of rolling hills. Palandjian was as fascinated by Joy’s practicality and precision as he was by his talent. He recounted their first site visit, “Rick is picking up leaves and I go right to the hill, like I’m king of the hill.

Rick said, ‘You’re not going to want to be up there.' He snapped me out of it.” The two men became friends, not always the case with an owner and an architect, Joy acknowledged.

“I use the word ‘deserving’ a lot,’ he said the other day. “Some of my clients don’t deserve what we do, and some very much do. Paul is at the top of that list. I’d drop everything for him.” When Palandjian decided that he needed a regular toehold in Manhattan and bought a unit in a limestone colossus on the Avenue of the Americas, he asked Joy to design it. The 1,000-square-ft studio is the first apartment Joy has ever designed for a client. (Among other things, he is working on the redesign of the Princeton train station, a typical endeavor for his firm). Here, he has imagined a kind of inside-out house, with an inner skin of whitewashed fir that creates walls of closets and sprouts a dining table and a bed. The ceiling and walls are white Venetian plaster. White linen tumbles from above the windows; around the bed are indigo and white linen curtains you can pull shut to make a ‘room’. On the closet doors are leather tabs, so you don’t whack yourself as you walk by (a detail Joy used in Palandjian’s Woodstock house as well and which the contractor called as ‘door software’).

Palandjian paid $1,050,000 for the apartment in 2010 and spent about $300,000 renovating it. He gutted most of the place, which he said had been finished with cheap drywall and glued-down wood floors, but kept the bathroom, which had been done at a higher level. He also added soundproofing of double-insulated acoustic drywall, so he can plug in his guitar amp (or do pretty much anything else) without annoying the neighbours.On the bed, the other day was an oddly out-of-place object, a multicolored Steiff soccer ball. “I’ve had one since I was five,” Palandjian said. “You can actually play with it. My kids and I do. You just make that door entry the goal,” he said, giving the ball a firm kick kitchenward.

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