Lloyd & Michael’s Happy Place

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Michael Tavano, Lloyd Marks and Bartley
Location: Murray Hill — New York, New York
Size: 725 square feet
Years lived in: 3 — rented

Michael Tavano does windows. With dressmaker detail, beads of brass, Chanel-inspired fabric, whisper-quiet motors, and view-expanding sleight of hand. And Michael Tavano sets a fierce table. Layered, glamorous, and for some big names in the design world. From window to table, floor to ceiling, and wall to wall, the home of Michael and Lloyd is full of color, lots of joy and lots of ideas to borrow. And Michael is happy to let you.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

It’s no small feat to create a space that works beautifully day or night, but they did, and it does. Credit goes to the starring role of yellow: daffodil bright one moment, burnished and golden the next. After a party, you’d swear the walls were gold, too, but that’s just the magic of the gloss white walls, reflecting all the colors around them.

Only half of the home is cool, but that’s not a critique of Michael’s design skills or the HVAC system. Like many things in their life, it’s all about the color. East-facing spaces are built on yellows, reds and oranges, while the bedroom combines cooler lime and turquoise. The palette seems pure whim at first, but there’s definite design to it. The warm side greets the day with a sunny disposition, while the cooler side ushers in the Empire State views as night falls. The warm/cool flip-flop continues within the rooms, too… magenta artwork heats up the bedroom, cobalt appears in the paintings flanking the hearth, the same blue in the fireplace’s gas flames. Coincidence? Chance design detail? In Michael’s world, no such thing.

Then there’s the lighting. “Lighting is key. It makes the most inexpensive thing look expensive, or it can make the most expensive thing look like you bought it at a dime store,” says Michael. Here, it’s layered and flattering, and includes lamplight (through deep tangerine shades), uplights and picture lights, all on dimmers. It could be a nightly handful, but thanks to resident techie Lloyd, a totally wired system brings the lights up and on in one touch of a button.

The beaded wall also plays a part in that lighting plan, but it was installed primarily to close off the pass-through, where dinner dishes and a like, totally 80’s kitchen are best closed off from view. The look is high end, but the origins are humble: The strands are what some keychains are made of, the lighting is standard issue Home Depot. The only diva note here is the velvet behind the beads, the same fabric on the seats of the dining chairs. Truth be told, the fabric cost more than the set (scored in antiques mecca Hudson, New York). “I invest in fabrics, because I love fabrics,” says Tavano, and it is far more truth than justification.

While many who work with color head home to neutral corners (remember Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz’s ode to white?), not Michael and Lloyd. The plan started there: Michael originally wanted it to be all about neutrals… taupes and camels, black and white. But drapes repurposed from a show house gave Michael a sunny yellow starting point, and a change of heart on his well-laid neutral plans. “I just couldn’t do it, ” Michael sighs. “I preach about color, so I should be living with color.” The camel quickly gave way to yellow, and the taupe gave way to, well, anything but.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

What keeps these happy colors from floating away like the house from “Up”? The swank anchor of black, that’s what. Michael is a big fan of the color’s grounding power, and he uses it as a graphic element or the soothing end of a room’s range. It shows up in side tables, pillows, over half of Bartley, the bedroom rug’s wrought iron-like fretwork (a dark leitmotif that makes several appearances around their home), and the apartment’s doors, giving this definitely
not Pre-War apartment the grace of age. Against white walls, the contrast sets up a lovely rhythm, like jazzy piano keys.

Michael also says of color, “The biggest do-it-yourselfer’s mistake is trying to match everything perfectly. It’s all about subtle variations to add depth to the space.” Proving that point beautifully, there are easily a dozen shades of orange in the living and dining areas alone, even before the table is set.

And about that table setting: it is a mix of high and low, glamour and whimsy. Michael’s way around a tabletop has garnered him quite a reputation. ELLE Décor and other notable names hire him to create party-ready tables for chic soirees and big-ticket fundraisers, like 14 years of “Dining By Design,” the über-inspiring annual event benefitting DIFFA, the Design Industry Foundation Fights AIDS.

But back to those windows: you would expect a man who creates couture-inspired window treatments to sing their praises, but here, the drapes speak for themselves. In their Chanel-inspired Jamie Drake fabrics, bright colors and ribbon edges, the drapes turn the bedroom into an almost-all glass box. With the treatments rising to the ceiling and dipping behind sleek (IKEA!) built-ins, the windows take on even grander proportions. And the views are all the richer for it.

Whether draped over tables, tufted on a headboard, or providing a frame for some of Manhattan’s most spectacular views, in the hands of Michael Tavano, fabric takes on a life of its own. But never takes itself too seriously. And the real beauty of it? Neither do Lloyd and Michael. That made getting to their happy place all that much easier.

Hear more from Michael, including his philosophy about using IKEA pieces, and a chandelier made of money, here! And don’t miss his table at Dining by Design! You also might remember Michael from his contribution to “It Gets Better: NYC Designing Men.”

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Playful sophistication.

Inspiration: Sunrise and life’s travels. Every sunrise in the apartment bathes it shades of reds, oranges and yellows.

Favorite Element: The view – your choice of Midtown Manhattan or the East River looking toward Long Island.

Biggest Challenge: Working with the location of the fireplace.

What Friends Say: Warm, comfortable, and loving environment and, oh yes… THE VIEW!

Biggest Embarrassment: The kitchen… very late 80’s.

Proudest DIY: Closing off the 80’s kitchen pass through with the backlit, brass bead chain drapery treatment.

Biggest Indulgence: Home automation: RF multi-room lighting control, cloaked Audio/Video, motorized window shading. (Thank you Lloyd!)

Best Advice: Hire a designer. If not, pick a color and style and stick to it until you’re done. Discipline yourself to only purchase things you love and don’t overfill the space.

Dream Sources: A money tree! But seriously, while reality requires a certain balance of high/low and there’s great design to be had in a lot of unexpected places from Chinatown to TJ Maxx, I believe when budgets allow in incorporating as many items as possible that are hand crafted, artistic and meticulously designed. Perhaps the best “source” is a client who understands, appreciates and desires items from great “atelier-quality” resources such as Odegard; Carini Lang; Ralph Pucci; Craig Van den Brulle; Fortuny; Frette; La Cornue; Steuben; Venini; Gagosian Gallery and the Alpha Workshops. And is it also joyful to work with sources that provide the absolute state-of-the-art such as Savant Home Control and Scavolini Kitchens.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Benjamin Moore, Snow White, high gloss


    • Drapery Fabrics: Kravet Fabrics, White Cotton Mesh lined in Yellow Wool Sateen with Red Grosgrain Trim.
    • Dining Room Curtain Wall: Shimmer Screen brass bead chain
    • Sofa: DDC Domus Design Collection
    • Sofa Pillows: Floral: custom with fabric by Bergamo; Solid orange: custom with fabric by Bergamo; Long hair lamb pillows, internet find
    • Colored “triptych”: Almedahls window shade fabrics in white frames
    • Dining Table: Arrnory Antiques, Hudson, New York
    • Dining Light Fixture: purchased on a trip to Venice
    • Living room rug: Almedahls SE
    • Picture Lights and Dining Sideboard: IKEA (with lamination added to base cabinetry by homeowners)
    • Bar: Mother’s, repurposed and freshened with black lacquer finish
    • Eames chair: Flea market, reupholstered by MT Custom LTD, NYC
    • Gold Faux Bois Table: West Elm
    • Artwork over fireplace: acquired on a trip to India
    • Abstracted City skyline over Sofa: Victor Ortale, Boston


    • Hall Cabinet: basement cast-off from a client, refinished


    • Built-in cabinetry: IKEA
    • Rug: CB2
    • Bed: Fabricated and upholstered by MT Custom Workroom, NYC. Fabric – Kravet Wool Sateen
    • Drapery Fabric: Jamie Drake for Schumacher, ” Babe Tweed
    • Wing Chair: Flea market find, refinished and re-upholstered by MT Custom LTD, NYC
    • Bedside Lamps: DIY; 2 vases from TJ MAXX, fitted with gold cloth lamp cord and shades from Broome Street Shades.
    • Artwork over Bed: Victor Ortale, Boston


    • Shower Curtain: Embroidered black and white alternate striped with yellow wool sateen, Kravet Fabrics
    • Stool: Two Worlds Arts, re-upholstered by MT Custom LTD, NYC with Michael’s grandma’s black curly-lamb coat.


    • Window Treatment Fabrication: MT Custom LTD, NYC
    • Drapery Hardware: Goelst USA
    • Lighting Control: SmartHome
    • Automated Shades: Blindtek Designer Systems

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Lloyd, Michael and Bartley!