Designer Spotlight

Andrew Torrey Designs Interiors with Clean, Cool Allure

Andrew Torrey’s New York–based interior design studio, BA Torrey, works on projects from Baja California to London and in points in between, creating homes whose aesthetic can be described as “minimalism with a twist.” Top: The living room of a mid-century modern house in Los Angeles’s Trousdale Estates sports a new white FlexForm sofa, along with a Gallotti & Radice sofa and purple Arflex armchairs that Torrey found on 1stdibs. The pink ottoman is Minotti. All photos by Douglas Friedman and styled by Emma Forbes unless otherwise noted

Switching careers is never easy, and success in the new field is certainly not guaranteed. But don’t tell that to Andrew Torrey. Thanks to his talent and drive, the New York–based interior designer — who launched his firm, BA Torrey, seven years ago after pursuing public relations, event planning, music management and residential real estate — has been inundated with work. And his projects have been the kind of high-style, high-profile commissions normally reserved for seasoned blue-chip practitioners. An invitation from decorator Jamie Drake to conceive a room for the celebrated Kips Bay Decorator Show House arrived just five years after Torrey established his studio (he made a splash with his sexy, rooftop “After-Party” room), and last year, he debuted his first product line, a collection of striking Art Deco–inspired rugs for Stark.

Interior design “was a business that was right in front of me,” Torrey says, explaining his change of field. As a high-end real estate broker, he had staged some of the homes he marketed and recalls “dreaming about what I could do if I was designing these projects” start to finish. One of the most important things he learned from his previous profession — besides how to work with attorneys and financial advisers and manage budgets and clients — was how personal a home is for its owners. That realization helps him keep his ego out of his design projects.

Another view of the Trousdale living room reveals a lounge chair and ottoman by Knoll as well as a Verticale shelving unit by Design Frères, purchased from Blend Interiors, and a French brass and chrome planter.

Developing stylish concepts for luxurious contemporary living comes naturally to the Kansas-born Torrey, who credits the creative atmosphere of his parents’ landscape and nursery business with sparking his passion for design. Today, he crafts residences with a clean, cool allure. Call it minimalism with a twist. He routinely pairs sculptural furniture with delicate finishes, he says, covering a “muscular” sofa in cashmere, for example, or “mixing wood and silk, stone and metal.” But in his ego-free process, such signatures never dictate the design or eclipse the homeowners’ preferences: “It’s never my way or the highway,” he insists. “Projects with really uninvolved clients are the least interesting to me. I want to help them create a home in which they raise their children, make memories and love each and every item.”

In the dining area, Eero Saarinen chairs from Knoll surround a Shield dining table by Kelly Hoppen beneath a vintage Italian chandelier from High Style Deco. “We clad the fireplace wall in Neolith stone slabs made to look like steel,” says Torrey. 

The kitchen features a dining suite by Warren Platner, which Torrey sourced from 1stdibs.

Torrey has just put the finishing touches on the gut renovation of a London residence and a new-build vacation home in Baja California’s Cabo San Lucas, and he’s currently conceiving interiors for a Montana retreat, two Los Angeles properties, a home in Denver and a New York apartment. “I travel constantly, and none of it is for vacation,” he says without complaint.

One recent commission close to home was the down-to-the-studs transformation of a two-bedroom apartment on Crosby Street in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood into a grand one-bedroom lair for a client who works in fashion. Her sole request was that it be totally dog-proof. To accomplish that without sacrificing style, Torrey paved the floors in ceramic tiles that look just like wood planks and upholstered the curvaceous, inviting furniture he chose — including a sensuous Milo Baughman chaise purchased through 1stdibs from Full Circle Modern — in durable mohair and leather treated to resist stains. In the living room, he accompanied a gleaming floating Paul Evans console (another 1stdibs find, from Oliver Modern) with a burl-wood cocktail table whose already-gnawed look can be touched up if chewed on further by the pets.

Torrey had the living room’s existing laser-cut steel screens lacquered in white and backlit with soft light. This adds airiness during the day and drama at dusk and into the evening, he notes. The floor-to-ceiling window offers views of Beverly Hills and Downtown L.A. in the distance.

He enclosed the bathroom shower in frosted glass so that the space could function as a powder room and the owner “could entertain guests and not have to worry about cleaning up her shower,” says Torrey, who also installed a a full bar in the massive dressing area, because “she wanted it to always feel like fun in her closet.”

Torrey clad the master bathroom, which opens to the pool, from floor to ceiling in boldly veined marble.

Working on a low-slung mid-20th-century house in Los Angeles’s Trousdale Estates, Torrey sought to retain its swank vibe while updating it to suit the style of an über-stylish European couple who enjoy entertaining. “They love pops of bold color and strong lines in the furniture and wanted a contemporary version of a true Trousdale-style home,” he explains. The designer sourced choice period-perfect furnishings from 1stdibs, including shapely brass table lamps from 20CDesign in the master bedroom that he paired with a custom-designed headboard upholstered in that 1970s mainstay Ultrasuede. “I started using furniture bought on 1stdibs right away when I launched my business,” Torrey says. “It makes it very easy to be an international designer. I can shop the galleries in Paris, Italy and Berlin. It enables me to pull in the best antiques and vintage pieces without actually getting on a plane.”

The master bedroom features several vintage pieces: an Italian credenza and Clay Michie for Knoll swing-arm lamps, which flank the bed and came from 20CDesign. The bed and nightstands are custom designs by Torrey’s studio. 

Striking circle-patterned, lacquered-steel screens frame the spacious living area, which holds mid-century Arflex armchairs and a curved Gallotti & Radice sofa covered in a radiant green velvet. The dining room, cast in moody black and red, features Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs surrounding a dynamic pedestal table by Kelly Hoppen. Torrey installed accent lights all over, illuminating everything from the pool and garden to floating shelves and room dividers. He calls the result “Hollywood glamour that feels very sexy at night.”

More Interiors by B. Andrew Torrey
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More Interiors by B. Andrew Torrey

In the dining area of an apartment in Manhattan’s Walker Tower, interior designer Andrew Torrey, of the New York–based studio BA Torrey, surrounded a vintage Eero Saarinen table from Converso with Munna chairs. The Fontana Arte chandelier is from Bernd Goeckler Antiques, and the William Helburn photograph from Staley-Wise Gallery.

A custom BA Torrey sofa faces the studio’s Bear chair, designed in the style of Jean Royère, across a Dakota Jackson coffee table from Connors Roth. The rug is by François Catroux for Edward Fields. The table lamps flanking the couch are by Lorin Marsh, while the photograph of Kate Moss above is by Arthur Elgort.

In the master suite, Zia Priven pendants hang on either side of the bed, designed by BA Torrey. The cabinet at far right is from Bernd Goeckler.

An Eric Schmitt for Christian Liaigre bench sits below an artwork by Stéphane Courtier in the foyer. The coatrack is from Apparatus Studio.

For his own apartment, in Manhattan’s West Chelsea, Torrey eschewed his signature minimalist-leaning aesthetic for a more maximalist approach. He found the pair of G-Plan Blofeld chairs on 1stdibs, and his studio designed the custom sofa, on which sit an Hermès throw and pillows. The pieces hanging on the walls include artworks by Pablo Picasso and Tom Wesselmann, as well as assorted masks from Torrey’s grandparents’ travels and a hackamore bridle that the Kansas-born designer used to use to break young colts. Photo by Tim Lenz

A mirrored coffee table from Mantiques Modern — originally used as part of a display in a Gucci store window — sits on a Moroccan carpet purchased on a trip to Marrakech. The vintage Christian Dior smoking tray atop it is also from Mantiques Modern, while the books are from Assouline. Photo by Tim Lenz

In the apartment’s bedroom, the Milo Baughman nightstands were purchased from High Style Deco, while the vintage Italian lamp is from Flair Home Collection. The photograph on the wall is by Mark Klett. Torrey had the brass bed, also vintage, upholstered in an Hermès fabric. Photo by Tim Lenz

Hanging over the bedroom’s Baughman dresser, also from High Style Deco, are pieces by Roberto Dutesco, Stanley Herd, Marek Halter and the Brooklyn-based artist collective Faile. On the dresser is a mask from the Ivory Coast, and the vintage torso urn on the floor, as well as the bar tray and decanters, are from Mantiques Modern. Photo by Tim Lenz

In the kitchen, a 1980s work by an outsider artist based in Upstate New York, purchased through Mantiques Modern, hangs on the wall and a Stilnovo chandelier above the island. The stools are from York Street Studio. Photo by Tim Lenz

In the hallway outside the bathroom hang pictures of Torrey’s grandparents’ prize quarter horses, painted in the 1970s by Keith W. Avery. Above the towels is a photo collage by Peter De Potter. Photo by Tim Lenz

The same couple had Torrey do their Manhattan pied-à-terre in the Art Deco Walker Tower. Here, the challenge was to transform a crisp but plain white box into a welcoming nest fit for world travelers. “It needed to feel like an extremely luxurious, very smart hotel suite,” Torrey explains. “Everything is very tactile and warm.” For the living room, he designed a plush velvet-covered sofa that he parked beneath a stunning photograph of Kate Moss by Arthur Elgort. The undulating Dakota Jackson Self-Winding cocktail table nearby was another 1stdibs find, from Connors Roth. In the master suite, a shapely custom-made bed, whose headboard embraces nightstands, is swathed in thick, teddy-bear-like mohair, while a vintage Vladimir Kagan sofa — set off by gleaming Milo Baughman étagères — is upholstered in pink velvet. “Everything you sit on is so comfortable you don’t want to get out of it,” says Torrey. “When the owners get home after a long flight, they feel instantly at home.”

 

In the living room of an apartment on New York’s Crosby Street, Torrey paired a Milo Baughman chaise and armchairs from Full Circle Modern with a sofa by his studio. The artwork over the couch is by Summer Strauch. Photo by Tim Lenz

Torrey’s own residence, a one-bedroom apartment in a clean-lined eight-year-old building in Chelsea, eschews the less-is-more approach he takes with most of his clients. It all but overflows with furnishings and artwork he has collected since his arrival in New York 19 years ago. In the living room, 1960s black-leather swivel chairs by the British firm G-Plan (the model had a memorable cameo in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice) face a salon-style wall of mixed-media pieces, including works by Pablo Picasso, Tom Wesselmann and Bruce Weber. His bedroom is kitted out with a Baughman nightstand and dresser from High Style Deco. A pair of charming paintings of prized quarter horses, heirlooms from his grandparents’ Kansas ranch, brighten a hallway. The kitchen barely looks like a kitchen — it’s more like a bar, and that’s exactly how he uses it when entertaining friends. “Very rarely do I cook. This is New York City, I order in,” Torrey says with a laugh.

Left: A Stilnovo chandelier hangs over a mohair-upholstered bed in the Crosby Street apartment’s master. The Fernando Botero sculpture on the windowsill is from Gustavo Olivieri 20th Century. Right: Torrey used frosted glass to enclose the bathroom’s shower, so that the owner “could entertain guests and not have to worry about cleaning up her shower,” says Torrey. Photos by Tim Lenz 

“I was nervous about taking on something I loved so much and turning it into a career,” he muses about his decision to go all in with interior design. The talented Mr. Torrey has nothing to worry about, however. It may have taken him a few years and extra steps to discover his destined career, but far from dulling his passion, creating interiors professionally has made design even more of an obsession — in the best way  possible.  “It’s created a complete monster in me,” he says, laughing. “It trumps everything else in my life.”

 

Andrew Torrey’s Quick Picks

“Paul Dupré-Lafon is the king. This desk is an incredible example of some of his finest work, incorporating metal, wood, leather and other elements, all with beautifully executed, thoughtful storage functionality. His sophisticated yet muscular design work has subtlety influenced generations of designers, and it continues to influence me daily.”

“The design of the arms and base just kills me. These chairs are so chic, so sophisticated and just gorgeous from every angle — strong design, timeless, just heaven. And from one of my favorite dealers on 1stdibs!”

“Strong and functional, this is a crowd pleaser!”

“The holy grail of artwork for me personally, having grown up in western Kansas, surrounded by cowboys and Indians folklore. John Wayne movies are a guilty pleasure, and to have these iconic people and images interpreted in a modern way by Andy Warhol ticks every box for me.  I’m on a mission to have them all — some day soon, hopefully!

“Also functioning as a dining table, this is a slam dunk for any outdoor entertaining area. I used it recently on the roof of a penthouse apartment in Soho. The client and his children love it!”

“These folded-top leather boxes are great. A little bit rough, a little bit sophisticated, more than just another box. I love the design and the functionality.”

“I love this collaboration between two very special artisans, Roberto Rida and Simone Crestani, who have come together to create beautiful artworks. The piece would be incredible in any setting.  Strong yet delicate, it’s magnificent.”

“From the first time I saw these chairs, in a New York City gallery, I was in love. The bold form, industrial steel-tube frame and comfort — sign me up! Definitely a conversation starter in any setting, this is one of my favorite armchairs.”

“This table feels easy to use, functional and fitting for most rooms.”

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