The task: To shop for a couple with conflicting tastes. The challenge? Our
shopping guide, Randall Beale of Beale-Lana Interior Designs, was restricted
to the cobblestone stretch known as Greene Street, spanning five blocks between
Canal and Houston. For Beale, who has a healthy appreciation for any interior
that surpasses beige blandness, this project was a cinch. “We’re
not afraid of mixing anything,” says Beale about himself and his partner,
Carl Lana. “I hate to use the word eclectic, because it’s such a
cliché. But if it works, it works.” What better person for the job
than a former fashion designer who owns a pair of worn jeans patched with Fortuny
We began at the legendary Moss, located at 146 Greene Street, an institution
for the design-conscious run by Murray Moss (who Beale says “is a hoot”).
The showroom offers shoes, pots and pans, side tables and sofas, all cleverly
arranged in a light-filled gallery setting. “Moss is a purchaseable museum,”
Says Beale, whose attention is vied for by a hodgepodge of objects: cast aluminum
crates by Dilmos (“I’d buy three and put a piece of Lucite or glass
on top”); a glittering wave ring by Becchio; a set of cookware by iittala.
But he is repeatedly seduced by anything in white porcelain. “I have a
collection,” he admits. Turns out, a white porcelain set of tableware is
an excellent compromise for a guy who loves the traditional and a girl who goes
for a minimalist look. “What’s more traditional and modern than Nymphenberg
china by Ted Mueling?” poses Beale. “Fabulous. It’s beyond.”
Next, we pop in to the Coconut Company at 131 Greene Street, which sells
a mix of antique and vintage furniture from 19th- and 20th-century
France, America and China. "They have a similar sensibility to mine,"
says Beale. "I love Neo Ming—that's Chinese modern, basically."
He points out a few oversized lamps and on our way out, he pauses briefly to
admire a 1960s American Patchwork six-panel mirrored screen by Paul Evans. It
could easily work in a spare TriBeCa loft or a chintz-filled Park Avenue
We cross over to Sarajo at 130 Greene Street, a shop filled with colorful
textiles and antiques from India, Turkey, Cambodia and Syria, among other exotic
locales. A jade bowl, a group of beaded tassels hanging from a bed frame
and a carved wooden frame all capture Beale's attention. "I love anything
Indian," he admits. He is drawn to several of the 19th-century Maharaja-painted
photographs of Indian men and women. "An apartment that is all modern or
all fine French furniture from start to finish reads flat," says Beale.
"It's like dressing from head to toe with one designer—boring. The
more rules you break, the better."
Moving on, we head to Zeba, a UK.-based store devoted to Indian
inspired, hand-embroidered textiles in silk, velvet and organza. (Zeba's 69 Greene
Street location is its only one in the United States.) Here we found opulent
red pillows covered in gold applique work, silk bedding and hand-tufted rugs.
"This stuff can be added for fun," he says. He strokes a pillow covered
in a rusty bronze mix of matte and sparkling tones.
"Decorating, like a relationship, is all about compromise. If you like
the pillow, throw it in-if it doesn't work, it can always be changed."
Next, we enter the whimsical showroom of Jonathan Adler, a friend of
Beale's, at 47 Greene Street. Adler is known for his wildly shaped pottery—female
breasts are one of his design themes. But Beale admires a sleek stash box lacquered
in acid green, a functional modern piece for any part of the home. "The
rugs are wonderful," he says, examining the Rya Circle Rug made of hand-knotted
wool with a bold fuchsia and brown circle design. He says he would cut it into
smaller pieces and use them in the bath. "Jonathan does great accessories,"
he says. "The crazy things look better in a traditional environment and
the traditional things look better in a crazy environment."
A few doors down, Bisazza Mosaico at 43 Greene Street offers plenty
for bathrooms. Beale has just completed a Florida bath using blue Bisazza tile.
"My favorite thing about them is the gradation," he says, pointing
to the wide stripes on the walls and swirls on the ceiling made entirely
of light and dark blue tiles. "You can use these anywhere." What really
catches his eye are eight super-sized, shimmering gold tile sculptures by
Alessandro Mendini. "Are the sculptures for sale?" he asks. "They're
phenomenal!" Among those he prefers are an oversized lamp and a glittering
gold Borsalino hat. They range from $25,000 to $36,000. "Art is about what
hits you," he adds. "If it doesn't, you need to move on."
Leaving Bisazza, Beale realizes something is missing. We trek back up to 62
Greene Street to British Khaki, which has been partially concealed
by scaffolding and a movie crew that is beginning to set up shop. Inside, the
showroom, full of furniture handmade in India out of tropical hardwoods,
holds great promise for a couple torn between minimal and traditional design.
"It's gone more modern," says Beale. Yet it has canopy beds and armoires
that a traditionalist would adore. Beale often uses British Khaki for custom
pieces but adds, "the best deals here are the mirrors," pointing to
the Hutchison Herringbone mirror in a frame striped with teak and rose wood.
It's simple in design, yet traditional in craftsmanship. As Beale would say,
New York Spaces, April 2005