Fashion designer Carmen Marc Valvo’s glam cocktail dresses and evening gowns are sported on the red carpet by the likes of Beyoncé and Catherine Zeta-Jones. He’s the author of the 2011 book Dressed to Perfection: The Art of Dressing for Your Red Carpet Moments (Rizzoli), and Women’s Wear Daily wrote that he has the ability to “do it all.”
So where does Valvo get his big ideas? At home. The primary sources are his dazzling but comfortable apartment on Central Park West and especially his extraordinary garden in the Hamptons.
The 4,000-square-foot apartment, located in the famed Art Deco building The Majestic, was designed by Valvo and his longtime partner, Christian Knaust. They have lived there for 20 years.
It doesn’t take long to see the defining feature of the space—two Central Park-facing apartments stitched together—since out every window on one side is a green carpet with buildings beyond. “The most significant thing is the view,” Knaust says.
The spectacular Manhattan apartment overlooks Central Park, with views framed by circa-1800 mahogany columns from Kerala, India. An original Andy Warhol lithograph of Mick Jagger, signed by both artist and subject, hangs opposite.
While taking care not to block those stunning vistas, Valvo and Knaust wanted to create a feeling of accumulated history. “Everything here has a story, every single piece has a memory,” Knaust says, referring to such pieces as a framed Tibetan thangka from 1800 and a rare Tibetan woven “tiger” rug in the study. “It makes a much more interesting and warm home than if someone just decorated it.”
The combinations in Valvo’s apartment sound daring but come off naturally. Asian pieces abound, from the 1,000-year-old Indian sculptures in one hallway to the rustic Thai burial urns in Valvo’s favorite room, the cozy study. Within that study, there’s a cross-cut oak Stickley sofa (with rich brown leather that Valvo added), accessorized with strikingly patterned pillows made with fabric from the Kuba tribe, from what is today’s Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A Gustav Stickley couch anchors the study, with woven cloths from the Shoowa tribe in Africa framed on the wall.
A rare collection of prehistoric Ban Chiang bronze age pottery from Thailand; some of the pieces date as early as 3600 B.C.
Valuable antiques from Knaust’s Swedish family have pride of place, notably a gilded Swedish love seat from the 1700s.
Near the dining room window, a gilded love seat from the 1700s (above) is one of many treasures from the Swedish family of Valvo’s partner, Christian Knaust.
An Eliel Saarinen table and chairs in ebony and birch bask under a gold-leaf ceiling recess. Chair seats are a Jack Lenor Larsen herringbone pattern in horsehair. Fine 17th-century Indian portraits adorn the wall.
Three style strains come together in the apartment: Art Deco-era details from the grand old building itself, built in 1931; Biedermeier furniture and light woods associated with that style; and Asian and African pieces, many of them valuable antiques, that they have collected in their travels.
“I love to surround myself with things that are inspiring to me—that’s why I’m such an avid collector at home,” says Valvo, who this year is celebrating the 25th anniversary of both his company and his peony-filled Bridgehampton garden.
Antique neckpieces and bracelets from the Maasai people of Kenya inspired a dress in Valvo’s collection.
Even as they combined and modernized the two apartments in their home, Valvo and Knaust respected the bones of the building, restoring the bathroom fixtures, the door frames, and the warm cherry flooring.
Original Art Deco nickel fixtures from 1929 were restored.
A handmade hood in stainless steel tops the original range.
The living room’s breakfast nook features a park view and a 1950s stainless steel and maple dining set.
A feeling of floating on a silvery cloud permeates the master bedroom, with the bed flanked by 1940s mercury lamps and fronted by 18th-century American fireside chairs in cherry.
See Carmen Marc Valvo's Bridgehampton garden on the next page.
Home Photography: Jonny Valiant
Garden Photography: Matthew Benson
Produced by Erin Swift