Name: Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, Interior Designer and owner of BNO Design, and Steven Wine, And Bob's Your Uncle (ABYU) Lighting
Location: Chelsea — Manhattan, New York
Size: 1,235 square feet inside, 400 square foot terrace
Years lived in: 8 — owned
He’s best known for rockstar interiors (literally), and color-rich rooms that seem like you’ve stepped into a mango, blueberry or James’ Giant Peach. He’s been known to add haute shades (the kind you want to wear on your head even when sober) to prêt-a-porter lamps, and adds his own kind of Dali to some classic cribs. He’s got a superb design pedigree, but is not above a little dumpster-diving. Welcome to the home and life of Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz. His space may be all white, but his world is a colorful one, indeed.
Perched on the 8th and 9th floors looking northward over the heart of Chelsea, the home of Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz and partner/lighting designer Steven Wine (of ABYU Lighting) is living proof that this designer practices what he preaches. And he preaches to the likes of rocker-cum-designer Lenny Kravitz, photographer to the stars Mark Seliger and (no introduction necessary) Sean “Diddy” Combs, with high-style, high profile interior commissions.
But this is no designer’s laboratory, some impractical proving ground for his next client project; This is a highly personal home, which he and Steven lived in for three months before committing to a renovation plan that includes lots of um, unique choices made not for clients, but for satisfied selves. There’s the humble foyer raised to new heights with crazy, creamy shag and Versailles-meets-Studio 54 mirrors. Then there's the back-to-back glass-walled baths, where tub gives way to shower, and modesty is left, with the shoes, at the front door (until guests arrive… then white curtains just behind the glass keep things demure once again).
Benjamin’s style, fully on display here even in this whited-out version, is a theatrical façade built on a classical framework. Symmetry reigns supreme, and baroque pieces and classic plaster lamps continue the story. He got that classical sensibility no doubt from his nine years as Head Designer for the King of Castle Chic, John Saladino.
But where did Benjamin get his bravery and bravura? Surprisingly, this rockstar designer and man-about-town is a little bit country, and he attributes his love of all things tone-on-tone not to big city lights, but to the verdant rolling hills and water-colored shores of his home, Puerto Rico. And then there are the chickens… (PETA followers, you are momentarily excused) a country uncle’s distant cockfighting past taught Benjamin that those barnyard clowns have an incredible feathery sense of style, and those feisty roosters demonstrate a room-commanding presence not unlike Benjamin’s own self and style.
Those roosters rise up here, literally and poetically… a proudly mounted cock (oh my!) is the official greeter, keeping the entry from taking itself too seriously. Feathers cover lampshades— those millinery-inspired creations of Steven— and create a flattering glow. The fowl leitmotif is but one indication that this designer clearly has a sense of humor… the soap-offering simian, seeing no evil beyond the occasional monkey business in the walk-through shower, another.
But the stuffed chickens and feathered lamp shades are more than just cocky bravado or links to Benjamin’s past. They are a perfect metaphor for “BNO style:” Funny things can be beautiful, beautiful things need to have a sense of humor, and formality is enlivened when knocked down a peg.
What keeps Benjamin’s monochromatic interiors from falling flat, and here, what keeps white from feeling, well, vanilla? In addition to that sense of whimsy, he relies on shape (furniture here was chosen for silhouette and personality over label or provenance), texture (rough and smooth) and contrast (matte and shiny, solid and diaphanous). They all contribute to a single-color base that rewards but never exhausts the eye, whether the range is white, cream and ivory, or cherry red and crimson.
In spite of his “lovely island” background inspiration, this all-white space is no tropical Delano. This is a decidedly city home, where halogen pinspots on dimmers, glass, mirror and Venetian plaster impregnated with mica flakes give the place a night-time alternate personality to its sunny daytime demeanor.
And before you toss an indignant, “This man knows nothing about living with red wine, kids or black cats!” his way, think again. Benjamin insists all-white is more family-friendly than most other colors (“You can’t bleach red!”), and says even a white rug holds its own against kids and Cabernets, as long as it’s synthetic. And shag, he insists, hides more sins than it reveals.
Living la vida blanco takes some discipline, Benjamin admits, but basically a no-shoes-in-the-house rule keeps things clean, while washer and dryer tucked behind flowing drapes (white, naturally) in the foyer are pressed into immediate service when the designer needs to ditch any clothes that have seen a long day at a dusty construction site.
And how about that black cat in the all-white backdrop? Benjamin and Steven do own a cat, and black at that. It just happens to live at Steven’s studio (like a dazed Sylvester, no doubt, amid ostrich and goose feathers!). But even the Master of Monochrome is willing to bend his own rules for the right reason. “If the cat lived here,” says Benjamin, with his own Cheshire grin and all sincerity, “the carpet would be black.” Even in the colorful and stylish world of Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, a family pet can still get the last word.
Benjamin’s first book, Emotional Rooms, The Sensual Interiors of Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, was published by Simon and Schuster's Atria Books division in 2007.
You can also hear the Apartment Therapy conversation with Benjamin about his space, here.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Serene but theatrical.
Inspiration: Simple forms, the hills of Puerto Rico, and my uncle's poultry farm.
Favorite Element: Water!
Biggest Challenge: Indecisive clients. And photographing my own space!
What Friends Say: Hello!
What We Say to Friends Say: Take off your shoes.
Biggest Embarrassment: I don’t get easily embarrassed, hence the glass-walled bathroom.
Proudest DIY: Draperies made from raw gauze… totally unconstructed but looked amazing.
Biggest Indulgence: First class plane tickets!
Best Advice: Keep color choice to a minimum, but use it in abundance.
Dream Sources: ABYU Lighting!
Resources of Note:
Designer: Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, Benjamin Noreiega-Ortiz LLC, BNO Design; with Steven Wine; Assistant: Stewart Osborne; Contractor: Bohn Fiore Construction, INC.
PAINT & COLOR
• Walls: Judith Eisler
• Chicken and Rooster, BNO Designs
• Wall-to-wall Carpet: Architectural Flooring
• Custom Railing: Creative Metal
• Wall to wall carpet: Architectural Flooring
• Painting: Hiro Yokose, Stephen Haller Gallery
• Cube: Jane Voorhees, Soho
• Bar: BNO Design, fabricated by Plexicraft
• Painting: Nicole Chesney available at Heller Gallery
• Chair: Vintage Saarinen, Ebay
• Shades: Hunter Douglas, K. Flam Associates
• Walls: Decorative Art and Design
• Lighting: Tech Lighting from Lighting by Gregory
• Bar Stools: Vintage Saarinen from Ebay
• Lounge Chaise: AREA ID
• Fabric: Forza from Knoll
• Drum table: Tribal Sounds
• Floor Lamp: Gilbert Rhode, Ebay
• Art Piece on left: Beth Lipman at Heller Gallery, NYC
• Armless Chair: Cobweb, no longer available
• Coffee table: Vintage Italian from owners' personal collection
• Glass Coffee Table: found object on the streets of NYC
• Glass accessory on table: Capitol
• Eros Chair: Phillipe Stark original prototype from KARTEL
• Curve Sofa: Wooster Gallery
• Photo on wall: Steven Wine
• Floor: Bisazza terrazzo tiles
• Cabinetry: Alpha Craft
• Dining Table: BNO Design
• Chair: Louis Ghost by Phillipe Stark, Kartell
• Bed: K. Flam Associates
• Dressers: Custom painted, BNO Design
• Boxes: Lars Bolander
• Mirrors: 145 Antiques
• Floor lamp: ABYU Lighting
• Bedspread: Nancy Koltes
• Pillow: White Ostrich Feather, Custom by ABYU Lighting
• Night tables: BNO Design
• Mirror: Vintage Gio Ponti, designer’s collection
• Light Fixtures: Custom by ABYU Lighting
• Glass Wall/Doors: Architectural Glass Craft
• Plumbing Fixtures: AF Supply
• Light Fixtures: Custom by ABYU Lighting
• Monkey: Pearl River
• Draperies: K. Flam Associates
• Fabric: Hopskin from Covington
• Bird: End of History
• Countertop: Surell in Bleached Concrete, thru Bohn Fiore Inc.,
• Chair: Steen Ostergaard, Ebay
• Metal Coffee Table: Lost City Arts
• Custom Beds: K. Flam Associates
• Globe: Ebay
• Glass Sculpture: Beth Lipman, Heller Gallery
• Tall Lamp: Space Modern, Ft. Lauderdale
• Feather Shade: Custom by ABYU Lighting
• 50’s lamp: Ebay
• Wall Art: “ Faux Nevelson” by Steven Wine
• Cable light: Hot Achille, Ingo Mauer
Thanks, Benjamin and Steven!
Images: Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz
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