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Designer's apartment breaks out of the box

Scott Kurland, a young New York designer, decided to make his two-room Greenwich Village apartment into a veritable showcase of his design talents. He wanted to express his own convictions about modern, contemporary living and to create a home uniquely suited to the living requirements of himself and his wife , Susan, a graphic designer.

The apartment had little to recommend it, except that it was on the 22nd floor and had a terrace, lots of light, and some nice views. The rooms were dull and boxlike, but the designer saw them as an opportunity.

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As head of his own company, the Kurland Design Group Inc., he normally designs offices, stores, and showrooms. He asked his friend, James R. Silvester , an industrial designer, to help him detaill the plans for his apartment. Then the two men, to save money, worked together for six months to do the physical labor involved in building platforms, walls, storage, and seating units.

The collaborators "fine tuned" their design as they went along, working with a scale model to sculpture the space as they progressed, making changes as needed. To gain space and architectural interest, they designed the entire main living area on an angle. They put up a diagonal wall which became an axial point and also defined the main living area, dining area, and alcove den-study. The angled wall also governed the placement and character of every other element in the room, including furniture. A cantilevered wall cabinet contains stereo equipment and acts as a service counter for both living and dining areas.

The two men kept the apartment to well-planned essentials. Everything serves a function of living and is an integral part of the space. No object looks thrown in or added on. Even the stereo speakers were concealed behind the fabric-wrapped trough above the windows.

To get a change of floor level, the men built a platform for the dining area, a device which also gives the living room a "sunken" appearance.

The apartment today is a study in grays, varying from the pale gray walls to the dark charcoal gray carpeting in the living room. Burgundy red is the accent color in fabrics, pillows, and metal window blinds. The only pieces of furniture which the Kurlands brought from their previous apartment were a tailored sofa bed for the den, the round Italian dining table and four chairs, a coffee table, and a rolling TV cart. Everthing else was built into the contours of his uncluttered modern layout.

The Kurlands lived, or rather camped out, in the apartment for one year while they were analyzing their life style and determinign what they needed to make them comfortable and happy. The result was that Scott was able to design a place for every possession, thus adding to the general tidiness of their environment. His wife, Susan, agreed that having a specific place to put things , including the piles of papers that plague most people's lives, helped them maintain cool order.

Both Scott and Susan Kurland agreed that they key to any successful desing solution is the process of thinking about all of your needs and then deciding exactly where to sit, eat, work, and play, and how you want things to work for you. Then you have to see that it all comes together in a sensible, livable plan. It sounds simple, but it is not, says Mr. Kurland, a graduate in environmental design from Pratt Institute.

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Priorities for the Kurlands were clean swept space, openess, and natural sunlight. But they also wanted a sense of functional separation. This led them to create a separate entrance-hall area, a raised dining space, and a semiprivate den that alsol doubles as a guest room for occasional guests. They opted for floating furniture off walls, for soft lighting from recessed floor-level coves beneath the built-in furniture, and the plain look of thin-slatted blinds at all the windows. They chose to use both glass and mirror panels to open up and give the illusion of more space. They chose a gray color scheme because of personal preference and because of its easy maintenance.

By doing the labor himself, with the help of his friend, and by using his professional sources, Mr. Kurland was able to keep the total cost of his reangled and totally decorated apartment to between $15,000 and $18,000. He says the job would have cost $40,000 if design fees and contractors had been involved.

Doing exactly what he wanted has given him emotional and professional satisfaction, he says, and a home he is proud to live in and to have others see. It has also netted him and his co-planner, James Silvester, a first-prize award of $2,500 in the 1980 S. M. Hexter "Best Interiors of the Year" national competition. The jury cited their "utilization of space to create a total design concept" as an outstanding achievement.

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