Designer Spotlight

Pepe Lopez Makes Homes for Art and Art out of Homes

interior designer Pepe Lopez
Pepe Lopez, who launched his interiors firm in 2005, prefers to maintain a small office so that he can be as involved with his projects as possible (portrait courtesy of Pepe Lopez). Top: This living room of a Bridgehampton, New York, home features a custom sectional, coffee table and ottomans. The Guillerme et Chambron lounge chair is from Morentz, and the Mathieu Matégot nesting tables are from Intérieurs Modernes. The TeePee chairs by Lucy Kurrein for the Future Perfect are upholstered in a Josef Frank textile (photo by Manuel Rodriguez).

I was always drawn to residential architecture,” says the designer Pepe Lopez, sitting in his light-filled office in New York’s garment district. “I like houses.” Indeed, Lopez’s 13-year-old practice focuses exclusively on the design of residential interiors — in Manhattan apartments and brownstones, in Hamptons and Connecticut houses and in Miami Beach condos, to name just a few sites. Many are filled with blue-chip modern and contemporary art and design, and all testify to Lopez’s gift for richly textured understatement.

Growing up in Ponce, Puerto Rico, with a dentist father and a mother who was passionate about classical music, opera and museums, Lopez wasn’t obsessed with design at an early age. But there were inklings. His maternal grandfather owned a furniture store that imported Danish modern pieces, as well as designs by Charles and Ray Eames — “things I hadn’t seen anywhere else,” Lopez recalls. “So visits to his house were very exciting.” And on trips to the Museo del Arte de Ponce, he appreciated the contrast between some of the art on display — like Frederic, Lord Leighton’s iconic Pre-Raphaelite painting Flaming June — and the striking modernity of the museum’s Edward Durrell Stone–designed building.

Hamptons Homes
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Hamptons Homes
dining room by Pepe Lopez

In the dining room of the Bridgehampton home, a table by Xavier Dohr for Avenue Road is surrounded by a set of Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs, and a Crump & Kwash Lynn console is paired with a custom mirror. The wallpaper is by Philip Jeffries, and the string light fixture by Paul Marra Design. Photo by Manuel Rodriguez

boys bedroom by Pepe Lopez

The bedroom of the homeowners’ young son features a custom rope tent and a floor mattress. Photo by Manuel Rodriguez

girls bedroom by Pepe Lopez

The daughter’s room contains a custom canopy and a floor mattress by the window. The Min bed is by Luciano Bertoncini, and the Matera storage bench by Sean Yoo. Photo by Manuel Rodriguez

living room by Pepe Lopez

In the great room of this East Hampton, New York, home, an Antonio Citterio table partners with Mies van der Rohe Brno chairs by Knoll and a David Weeks chandelier. The lounge chairs are by Jens Risom. Photo by Catherine Tighe

This girl’s room includes a custom loft bed and an Eero Saarinen Tulip table surrounded by Jens Risom chairs. Photo by Catherine Tighe

Bridgehampton entryway by Pepe Lopez
A David Weeks ceiling fixture in a custom hue hangs over the entry hall of the Bridgehampton home. The Lloyd side chair is by Crump and Kwash. Photo by Manuel Rodriguez

Lopez studied history at Brown University, graduating in 1987, thinking he’d go to law school. But he realized he wanted to do something more creative, so he enrolled in the Career Discovery program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. That experience proved a turning point. “I decided, this is it,” he recalls, and he moved to New York.

After spending three semesters at Columbia University’s school of architecture, Lopez left without getting a degree. Instead, he got a job with the architect Alan Wanzenberg, who at the time had a tandem practice with the late legendary decorator Jed Johnson. “I learned about architecture and design at a very high level when I was working with Alan and Jed. It was a holistic approach,” he says. “And I started being drawn to the interiors side.” Eventually, Lopez developed an interiors division at Wanzenberg’s office, where he worked until going solo in 2005.

Bridgehampton family room by Pepe Lopez
The Bridgehampton family room is furnished with a Ligne Roset sectional and a custom bookcase and media console inspired by Charlotte Perriand. The space also includes a Milo Baughman chair and a Sebastian Herkner Pipe table from Moroso. Photo by Manuel Rodriguez
bedroom by Pepe Lopez
In the Bridgehampton master bedroom, a Martha McAleer painting from the White Room Gallery is mounted over the custom headboard, and at the base of the bed is a tufted Sauvie sofa by Flotsam Furniture Works. Photo by Manuel Rodriguez

Lopez considers himself lucky to have great clients, who, he says, “expand my world.” And he’s adamant about keeping his office small, so that he can be as hands-on as possible. “I’m a bit of a workaholic,” he admits. Lopez says he doesn’t have a style that he applies to every project. “The architectural setting, the sense of place, is very important,” he explains. “Comfort is super-important, but I prefer a clean comfort. I don’t like overwrought interiors, but I appreciate layers, pattern, texture and color. I seldom do just painted walls anymore.”

For a sleek penthouse in an Enrique Norten–designed building in Miami Beach, Lopez used terrazzo floors and a light-toned grasscloth wallcovering throughout, deftly blending 20th-century modernist classics — a set of shelves by the Italian architect Ignazio Gardella and Willy Rizzo dining chairs, for example — with contemporary pieces like Zaha Hadid’s Liquid Glacial dining table, a cabinet by Hervé Van der Straeten and a striking copper chair by Ron Arad. To this rich mix, he added artworks by Takashi Murakami, Thomas Ruff and William Klein.

For the same clients, Lopez worked in a completely different setting: the parlor floor of a late 19th-century Manhattan townhouse. Here, he combined luxurious materials, as in the parchment-paneled walnut doors of the master bedroom’s closet, and combined 20th-century French pieces — a Süe et Mare secretary, lighting by Edgar Brandt, a bed by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann — with recent designs by Van der Straeten, Achille Salvagni and Christophe Côme, along with art by Lucio Fontana, Anish Kapoor and Fernand Léger.

Manhattan Homes
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Manhattan Homes
Upper East Side living room by Pepe Lopez

Art by Anish Kapoor hangs over the mantle in this Upper East Side townhouse. The custom display cabinets flanking the fireplace are by Christophe Côme. Photo by John Hall

Manhattan living room by Pepe Lopez

The living room includes a custom sofa in the style of Jean-Michel Frank, a Felix Agostini coffee table and an Achille Salvagni table lamp from Maison Gerard. Photo by John Hall

park avenue living room by Pepe Lopez

This Park Avenue living room, which has a lacquered ceiling and walls covered in white velvet, features a pair of Mies van der Rohe Tugendhat chairs, a travertine-and-bronze coffee table and metal benches upholstered in blue suede. Photo by John Hall

library by Pepe Lopez

In the library, an Edward Wormley side table is topped with a ceramic lamp from Wyeth. Photo by John Hall

New York living room by Pepe Lopez

This living room of a downtown Manhattan apartment features a sofa by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby for Knoll, a Wyeth coffee table and Artek stools. Photo by John Hall

Manhattan apartment by Pepe Lopez

The dining area contains a vintage trestle farm table and Marcel Breuer chairs from 20th Century Gallery. The Rainer Daumiller side chairs are from Morentz. Photo by John Hall

bedroom by Pepe Lopez

In the master bedroom, a vintage rush bench from Regeneration Furniture sits at the end of the bed, which sports a custom headboard. Photo by John Hall

Bond Street apartment by Pepe Lopez
Lopez created a cozy corner in this downtown Manhattan loft with a Pragh lounge chair and ottoman by Madsen and Schubel and a vintage rug from Wyeth. Photo by John Hall

In a Park Avenue apartment, Lopez created a sensuous backdrop for the client’s impressive collection of 20th-century and contemporary art with white velvet walls, a white lacquered ceiling and mohair-covered sofas in the living room. He designed a gray and white marble mantel for the dining room, as well as a contemporary version of an antique overmantel mirror to hang above it. His update of “the traditional chintz library” includes a colorful Brunschwig & Fils floral fabric and brown grasscloth walls.

Lopez has recently completed projects in the Hamptons and is currently at work on a new home in Miami Beach, as well as two new Manhattan apartments. When asked about the challenges his profession faces now, he cited the Internet conundrum: It greatly expands designers’ resources but can also distract clients with too many choices. Still, he’s unfazed. “I used to think this was a handicap,” he says, “but now, I think it makes for a richer experience. You just have to keep your focus.” Judging by his sophisticated, carefully considered interiors, Lopez has nothing to worry about.

Pepe Lopez’s Quick Picks on 1stdibs

“This sofa could be the centerpiece of a large living room. It would be particularly effective in a very contemporary room with lots of straight lines.”

“Comfort and a very contemporary look with some age attached”

“I have always loved ceramic lamps. This one has an amazing color and luster, and that dimpled pattern sets it apart.”

“The carpets by Märta Måås-Fjetterström are particularly good. This carpet should be in an entry foyer or somewhere where the pattern is not covered by furniture.”

“I love this contemporary center table — sculptural, colorful and tactile.”

“A fantastic and comfortable-looking wing chair”

“I love bamboo and wicker. This would make a fantastic daybed in either town or country.”

“I am great fan of Australian Aboriginal art. The colors, shapes and stories abstractly depicted affect me more than most art being produced around us today.”

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