A place to rest in luxury
FRANK Carfaro is a 41-year-old bachelor of such varied and impressive accomplishments that merely hearing about them wears one out, and he enjoys a long soak in a hot bath now and then. But when he renovated his small Greenwich Village apartment, he ripped out the tub because it didn’t evoke the right mood.
The mood he wanted, he explains, was that of a super-deluxe hotel, a place that would work for him in the short term – a stopover, until he starts a family. He replaced the tub with a steam shower of such intensity that s o m e o n e once mistook the steam pouring out the windows for smoke and called the fire department.
The bathroom walls are, of course, marble. The closet, between the living space and the bedroom, is open, allowing for fast access. Floors and ceilings have been insulated, so Carfaro’s music will not annoy the neighbours. And the furniture, which has traces of midcentury modern, comes mostly from his Soho furniture company, Desiron.
Carfaro is a man on the move, no one could doubt. He has been featured in ads for American Express and Levi’s.
Carfaro’s apartment, which seems to have all the accoutrements a man on the move could want, is just 550 square feet. He designed it himself, in a gut renovation that cost about $150,000.
Was he on a budget? Carfaro, who has a range of charming grins, smiles a little smile. Not really, he says.
If that creates an impression of a man who grew up rich and entitled, it is incorrect.
Carfaro grew up in Long Valley, N.J., where his father and grandfather did decorative ironwork and his mother was a delivery room nurse.
After the death of his parents’ fourth child, they took in foster children – 23, by Carfaro’s count. The family finances were up and down.
One year, Carfaro recalls, his father bought a half-dozen snowmobiles as Christmas presents; another year there was nothing.
But Carfaro, the oldest child, was ambitious even as a boy.
The Overdo-It Kid, he calls himself. If someone asked him to paint the trim on a house, he’d do the rest of it as well. He learned ironwork from his family, but as a designer, he is largely self-taught.
The one year he studied design and architecture at the University of Grenoble, before getting his degree in French and Economics at Rutgers College, he was more interested in skiing the Alps than learning to design.
Two years ago, Carfaro bought what was a onebedroom apartment in a nondescript apartment house for $585,000. It was not in bad shape, but Carfaro wanted to create a place that was entirely his own. He removed walls, ceilings and floors, finding an extra 25 square feet of space.
The galley kitchen was replaced with an open kitchen. The wall between the bedroom and living room was replaced with a handsome storage unit that has an ethanol EcoSmart fireplace in the base. The bedroom now has a platform bed he designed, with storage units covered in shagreen surrounding the leather headboard and glass shelves at the foot for shoes.
One of the home’s most appealing features is a plaster- and-decoupage wall in the living room that incorporates images of things that hold meaning for Carfaro: a map from the Underground in London, where he lived for a time, old fishing lures and a flapper wearing a half-dozen bowler hats.
The wall, created by Jodi Cohan, a designer who does faux finishing, was inspired by the peeling wallpaper in the home of the speech therapist in The King’s Speech.
“You could see the history of that building in that wall,” Carfaro says.
And that long-horned steer skull hanging on the wall? “I got it in a shop in Colorado,” he says. “I love that adventure stuff. I imagine how this cow lived and who drove him. It took me back to a time I would have liked to live in.” What about the long paddle beside it? “I do a lot of paddle boarding,” Carfaro says. “It’s a relatively new sport: You stand up on what looks like a surfboard and you paddle. I just did a 24-mile race around Manhattan.”