March 19, 2023Born 18 months apart, Pamela Katch and her sister, Steph Katch-Barbot, benefited from a childhood in California that could have driven them to shrinks — Dad was a modernist; Mom preferred antiques. Instead, it drove them to establish a design firm, Katch Interiors, dedicated to harmonizing old and new.
That was their approach to an apartment overlooking Central Park, bought by a retired couple with many avocations, including making and collecting art. The rooms were spacious, but the openings between them were narrow, which made each room feel distant from the others. The Katches widened the doorways, so that each room now offers a preview of the next one. And that, to Pamela and Steph, meant that the rooms had to make references to one another, even if only subtly.
It all starts with the foyer, which Steph calls “a neutral intersection from which you’re invited in all directions.” In keeping with its neutrality, it’s painted a flat white, allowing several important pieces to stand out. These include a sconce in alabaster with dark caramel and black veining from Edition Modern and a geometric ceiling fixture. There’s also a custom console made of hot-rolled steel that is only seven inches deep — enough to accommodate keys and a tiny vase, says Pamela. (The console has an identical twin on the other side of the wall.)
But the most important item in the foyer may be the view into the living room. Among the items glimpsed from afar are a Guillerme et Chambron Edouard conversation chair upholstered in black and white linen twill, a custom steel and terrazzo sofa table, a white plaster lamp from Danny Kaplan via 1stDibs and a brass mushroom lamp from the Katch Vintage collection on 1stDibs. (The sisters are newly minted 1stDibs sellers, with offerings as interesting as you’d expect after viewing their interior design work.) Walk closer to the room, and the chair is revealed to be in conversation with a Gigi Radice sofa upholstered in heavy petroleum-gray linen with a horsehair headrest, from Judy Frankel. In front of the sofa is a tiled Roger Capron table with a cola-colored glaze and strié surface pattern. Facing the Guillerme et Chambron is a Pierre Jeanneret clerk’s chair from Katch Vintage. The totemic plaster sculpture in the corner is by Brooklyn-based artist Carol Bruns. Born in Iowa in 1943, Bruns has been making art for 60 years and calls herself the “rad relic.” Her work, she says, “has a “stylistic affinity with preindustrial art” from “societies who live sustainably, in a balance with nature.”
In the den, existing bookshelves shelter a custom sofa almost the same charcoal color as the hand-painted paper by Porter Teleo that covers the walls and ceiling. The idea behind the dark paper was to emphasize the window, through which the brightness of the daytime view now startles. Two other attention-getters are the brass coffee table by Massimiliano Locatelli and the 1960s Italian floor lamp with opaline-glass shade, its fluting recalling the pattern of the apartment’s crown moldings. A fixture from Urban Electric hugs the ceiling, so as not to block the view.
The living room leads to the dining room, where the sisters decided that two custom tables with hand-chiseled edges are better than one. Substituting two squares for one rectangle increases flexibility, with one of the tables able to serve as a buffet. Another unusual decision was to upholster the backs of the 1950s French chairs by Ségalot in two very different fabrics. Centered in the room, the Republique plaster chandelier, from Bourgeois Boheme Atelier, and the Galerie Glustin carved sideboard give the room a welcome symmetry.
The breakfast room opens onto the kitchen and at the same time is “its own little nest, the place to get your day rolling,” says Steph. The cork walls and generous banquette set the scene for the custom triangular table, which can roll away on concealed casters to make a hidden laundry nook accessible. The shape of the table, Pamela says, “enables doors to clear and chairs to tuck in.” Other highlights are a 1940s chair by Vittorio Valabrega upholstered in English chintz and a vintage perforated-brass conical ceiling fixture from MORENTZ.
The sisters, who founded their Soho-based firm in 2007, are amenable to working with existing furniture and fixtures. Indeed, “we’re glad we have the opportunity,” says Steph. In the kitchen, they stripped existing steel upper cabinets, then gave them brass hardware to warm them up a bit. As if to show that the mixing of metals wasn’t an accident, they hung a pair of cast-aluminum light fixtures from brass ceiling canopies. Contrasting finishes give the space history and soul.
In the primary bedroom, sage-colored walls surround a custom bed covered in textured linen. The bed is bracketed by a pair of mid-century Jens Risom rosewood nightstands with leather-sling-supported shelves, from Central Avenue Modern. At its foot is a sofa from the couple’s previous apartment, which the Katches reupholstered in a very soft velvet. If that isn’t enough coziness, the sofa faces a window seat with an overstuffed down and feather cushion covered in Dedar silk and an extra pillow in Loro Piana ticking. A mid-century live-edge walnut table is just big enough for a set of Waifs enamel coasters, which the sisters modeled on Necco Wafers and sell through Katch Originals. Why Neccos? The candies, “doled out by our grandparents in San Francisco,” Pamela says, “were slightly disappointing on taste. But they definitely delivered on aesthetics.”