Thursday, May 2, 2013

Living Room/Show Room/Music Studio

I remember, one day, in the first year of my taking this apartment, I sat with my buddy Eric, chatting. I was working with StudioEIS at the time, a most noted studio in all of the world. I was telling him about what I had been working on there and he asked  me when am I going to have my own studio again. I told Eric; when the time is right. Back then the apartment was quite different. It was still full of wonderfully wacky stuff but, almost none of it had anything to do with music. So much has changed since then. As it would turn out, in many ways, we were sitting in the very place that Eric was asking me about.

As is evident in these photos, I'm in possession of more things than one might think to fit in to a 400 square foot space but, thanks to some simple, inexpensive devices, my eclectic menagerie works quite well. Shelving was key in this. I had just closed a studio space in Hoboken and would apply all of its shelving and its army of brackets to my new apartment. Knowing that I had more objects than the floor space would accommodate. I put the shelves up before I moved in and, as I moved in, books and large object were placed immediately up on them. Aside from the space savings, the shelving created a valance around 3/4's of the room's perimeter thus dividing the rooms verticallity with continuous horizontal planes. It's actually a Frank Loyd Wright Usonian home trick. Most of those homes were modestly sized yet somehow seem heroically proportioned. They all employ tall ceiling and low valances horizontally breaking the ceiling's height. I then broke the room into a third horizontal by placing table height shelves around the room's entire perimeter. That allowed me to reclaim much of the space taken by the room's dozen amplifiers while providing my guests with many more places to set their drinks. The shelves on the most eastern wall are deliberately set a couple of inches lower in order to force perspective and fool the eye into believing that the whole wall is a bit further away than it actually is. Of the 3 shelves on the western wall, the lowest, directly above the sofa, received lower hinged doors and now serves as a 12 cubic foot cabinet that runs the wall's full length. Half of it contains Sonia's clothing, the other half, guitar cords, mic stands and other musical regalia and paraphernalia. The coffee table is a small Odyssey in and of its self but, it's basic construction was pretty simple and it holds an additional 10 cubic feet of storage. With absolutely no floor space left to accommodate the keyboard on its stand, I created a simple "T" out of iron pipe and cast fittings from the hardware store and attached it to the wall with conduit straps. I used those same straps to attach a shelf to the T's horizontal length. The keyboard now lives effectively cantilevered on a 36" hinge hovering above the astro-turf on the window seat and simply swings out to be played. Even the painted floors along with the carpets work together to visually  increase the rooms size beyond its actual parameters.                                                                                       
During my divorce, I decided to move back to New York City. I was born and lived my first 6 and a half years there(the following 12 years were spent divided between 3 suburbs of Norther N.J.), and briefly had an apartment with a friend on the upper east side when I was 18. I had not lived in Manhattan since my teens. I was now returning to my home town as a man in my 40's. My sister Alisa was working for an apartment rental agency at the  time. Knowing my intentions and price range, she showed me this unit first, believing that it was the cream of the crop. I hated it! I thought that it was dark and ugly and hideously crafted. The entire place looked as though it hadn't been painted in a quarter of a century. The floors were covered from wall to wall with an exhausted dark russet, high pile shag carpet that no longer possessed a life energy to cry for the shampoo that it could have so desperately made use of. The western walls were exposed, varnished bricks as brown as the carpets and blades on the ceiling fan which were so thickly covered with fuzz and funk that it appeared to have been employed in the fiendish slaughtering of little gray kittens. Of the sheet rock and plaster, monkeys or, marsupials would have done better. The carpentry and finish work was of an equally loathsome, sloppy standard. In short, I was repulsed by the sub-simian carelessness of it's craft and quality, so much so that I was blinded to the merits of it's ceiling height, french doors, precious balcony and stellar location. It did have a full bathroom rather than a toilet at one end of the apartment and the shower in the kitchen, a configuration not uncommon in East Village tenements but, I saw it as having little else going for it. These views would only be held before my learning a new basis for comparison. After having seen half a dozen other apartments in my price range, one more ridiculously atrocious than the other, choosing this was the only logical option.

Before I moved into the apartment it was painted white form top to bottom, one end to the other. The carpets were pulled up and the patched, planked floor was painted battle ship gray. The windows were replaced as well. I was amazed by how little work would be required in changing the space's basic vibrations. With its new pristine coats of gray and white neutrality I was able to see past the boogered corner bead and bad finish work. I saw the room as if a Chinese box puzzle comprised of components that were equally cartoonish and classical in natures had exploded and distributed itself across the walls like a Piet Mondrian, camouflaged incognito but ever present in its balance and underlying elemental geometric order. To shed more light on this arrangement, I stripped the transom above the french doors. That small change allowed the sun to come in, in a way that the space had not known in what seemed like a hundred layers of paint.
Beyond the artworks and hand carved, foam furnishings, toys abound, occupying just about every available nook and cranny. Most of them have come to me over the years as Christmas and birthday gifts from my daughter Sonia. I love what they bring to the spirit of our home as much in many ways as I do any of the things here that I've made with my hands.
If living rooms are for living, this living room has seen a lot of life. It has heard hundreds of jams and hosted thousands of guests. It has absorbed as much positive energy as it has spirits spilled and given a stage so often to the soaring talents whom I so humbly count among my friends. Through it's french doors, from out on the balcony I've seen myriad processions, parades, protests and demonstrations as the seasons have rolled past and the years have gone bye. My balcony is like a tiny, first class box seat from which I'm able to leisurely observe the theater of the street's ever changing carnival and clanking cacophony of ebb and flow. No room other than the delivery room has changed me more.

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