One-Bedroom Apartment in Turn-of-the-Century Building


Location West Village

Price $174,000 ($262 maintenance)

Square feet 600

Occupant Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan (film writer and curator; U.S. liaison, Venice Film Festival)

Your office-loft area looks like where a chimp would live, with all those ladders you have to climb up. But it’s an attractive habitat.

It takes a little bit of training.

You said you do your writing there, though the ceiling’s not tall enough to fit a chair.

I sit on a yoga pillow.

You have all these built-in cabinets. Cabinets are always about secret worlds. If you opened the vertical one, would you end up on a road in California at the edge of the world?

I keep the vacuum cleaner in there.

Well, OK, but it is like a playroom here. You said before that you had a playroom in the duplex apartment you grew up in, in Torino. Your father the architect—everyone in your family is an architect—designed it with a bright blue linoleum floor so you and your sister could do anything you wanted.

For a good part of my life, I lived in a house that my father designed. My father came over from Italy and designed this apartment for me. He opened up all the walls between the living room and bedroom. Then he built an inner core—kitchen, bathroom, loft area on top. My father loves how builders in the States are so creative with wood. In Italy they use bricks and cement. Here are my father’s original drawings for this apartment.

How beautiful, all in colored pencils. He even drew your books in the bookshelves. The drawing paper is like a treasure map, all yellowed.

Frank Lloyd Wright is the inspiration for my father’s work.

I can sense the rhombuses in the room, those oblique equilateral parallelograms Wright was so fond of. And the low ceilings in the bathroom and kitchen.

My father designed this apartment to my scale. I’m really short, barely taller than five feet. The bathroom ceiling is, I don’t know, maybe five feet 10 inches.

The happy harmony when everything is in proportion! It can be so disturbing when a chair is too big, a plate has too much food!

I know! If a room is too large, if there is just one piece of furniture, space is dissipated, a waste. I seldom feel liberated in a big, empty place. But if you create corners, different spaces in one room, it feels bigger.

Better for the imagination, more places to go. You also get to go to Sag Harbor every weekend. What a perfect life!

No! I just rent this funky old captain’s house. Friends come and stay. They stay here, too.

This building is so beautiful, ivory-colored hallway, tall windows, fireplaces.

My first apartment in New York was in this building, ’84. I got a Fulbright to go to NYU. Then I married, moved to a couple of places in the Village. Then I wasn’t married anymore. I called my old landlord. He was considering selling one of the apartments.

Look—there’s a six-inch mural on the bathroom ceiling, a little painting of sky and an arbor and leaves.

This Italian painter did it.

The kitchen door is painted with red, blue, and yellow designs.

Oh, the painter did that. It was after a trip to Morocco, my Moroccan period.

The red floor with the little flowers in the loft area? The trompe l’oeil on the file cabinets?
Him again.

OK. Two years ago you bought another apartment downstairs for $198,000.

My father is going to renovate it when he can. We’ll make the two apartments into one, with a spiral staircase. In Italy, people don’t move around that much. You make your place how you want and you stay there.