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A Private World

Building the Ultimate Den
Erica Jordan
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 1)

"I think now, more than ever, the den is for entertaining," says Hagan. "Compared to the living room, it feels more laid-back. The space is a little bit more free. It's a place to play pool or watch a movie. It really incorporates the activities that people enjoy best in life. When people ask what is new in interior design, this is new in interior design."

Designer Juan Montoya agrees. "I think that dens are one hundred percent the rooms that people spend the most time in," he says. "It is the main room for entertaining small groups--the living room is for big parties. The den is the room of the future."

So who are these design experts who are changing the way we live?

Most professional interior designers don't bother to obtain a degree in architecture before setting up shop, but then New Zealand-born Sandra Nunnerley never planned to go into the design business. In 1984, Nunnerley transposed her understanding of architecture into a rich style that won her the honor of becoming the youngest designer to have her work exhibited by the famous Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York. In 1994, W magazine ranked Nunnerley as one of the six "most fashionable" interior designers in New York; the list included the renowned Mark Hampton.

"I think in the '90s, people are more family-oriented and spend more time at home," says Nunnerley. "They're more conscious of their homes, and people are looking for a simpler way of life--not as complicated as the '80s. In the '90s, the den is a sanctuary where the family can gather."

In a pied-à-terre overlooking Manhattan's Central Park, Nunnerley created a den that is modern, tailored and inviting. The composition centers around her client's love of fine wood and a rare collection of eighteenth century Chinese porcelain. The colors complement the famille verte and offer a subtle backdrop for the client's outstanding modern art collection.

"To enhance the famille verte china I juxtaposed a very strong and masculine design of shelving against the feminine delicacy of the Chinese porcelain, which gives the room a lot of play," Nunnerley says. "The shelves were designed to the right scale with special lighting for the pieces. The graining of the oak is quite unique, especially the sunburst on the ceiling. To make it really 'denny' I worked with different shades of green, including hunter, moss and sage."

Nunnerley created a snug window seat next to the books that celebrates the view, then punctuates the space with a serene spot to write a thank you note or make a phone call. The alcove evokes an understated elegance as it gently blends marble, leather and lacquered wood.

Hagan has no window shades in her Madison Avenue penthouse office, but that comes as no surprise. The designer is known for creating rooms around a view. And light. Or a fireplace. Highly respected for her witty integration of architecture and interior design, Hagan was cited by New York magazine in 1994 as one of "New York's Hottest Interior Designers." Hagan explains the core of her design philosophy. "No matter how formal a room is, or how eclectic, or how colorful, light and space is where it all begins. Because then you're able to see a great collection, you're able to create a great mood. Without light there is no mood."

In a Tudor home in Greenwich, Connecticut, Hagan designed a "great room" around existing architectural elements, the northern sunlight and her clients' love for beautiful antiques. "I think the scale of this room was so exciting to work with, for there's a lot of exposed structure," she says. "This room is very informal by nature; as a result, we've used handwoven fabrics and leather and wicker and beautiful, heavy old woods. The colors are from those materials, and they're able to work with the architectural materials that are already there, like the heavy stone. And, because of the antique set of [animal] trophies, there is a subtle African influence.

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