Who lives here: Irwin Gueco
Location: Washington, D.C.
Size: 495 square feet (46 square metres)
Year built: 1945
Looking at the salon-style, textured gallery walls in Gueco’s condo is like reading a virtual story about who he is. “When I heard [Gloria Vanderbilt’s quote], I said, ‘That is succinctly what decorating is all about, because what you put up and what you arrange should say something about you,’ ” he says. “It doesn’t have to be blatant. But when people who know you see your home, they go, ‘Thisfeels like you.’ ”
Chesterfield sofa: Restoration Hardware
The walls also hold some artwork Gueco made in the eighth grade. “Each of these pieces mean something to me, to my taste.… I love comic book art, so there is some original comic book art dispersed through the apartment.”
“The chair has some sentimental value to it because when i was getting it reupholstered, they called me and they said there was some graffiti on the leg. On the leg it read, ‘I hate Mommy.’ ” Gueco says he looked at the graffiti and thought, “That’s my younger sister.’ She was probably having a temper tantrum when she was like 8 years old, and she was in the living room, under the chair, and took a ballpoint pen to the chair.”
Gueco drew up before and after plans of his condo, exploring how the layout and circulation would work both with and without the wall in the kitchen. His eventual renovation allows for better circulation around the apartment and makes the space seem bigger than it is. “Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best!” he says of his redesign.
The entire renovation, including the kitchen, was about US$ 35,000. Gueco hired Ikea contractors to take up the original kitchen wood floor and remove the kitchen wall. “Ikea was very helpful, and, being a designer, I was able to go to their website to design my plan on their 3-D program,” he says. Because the walls in the condo are concrete masonry, it took a lot of effort to remove the one small wall, making the demolition portion of the renovation fairly costly.
Gueco also redid the subflooring, recognising that any imperfections would show up over time. He kept the original wood and tile floors in the rest of the condo.
“When I did the kitchen, I did a galley kitchen so everything would be consolidated to one wall. I wanted the kitchen to look like a wet bar when not in use,” he says. “And because I live in such a small space, I didn’t want anything exposed, like spoons or toasters. Everything is hidden in cabinets, and my wardrobe is off to the right near the bathroom.”
He mounted the TV to one side so it wouldn’t be the centrepiece of the room. The gallery wall around the TV helps it blend in as part of the overall design.
Gueco found the lamp at GoodWood in Washington, D.C. The light can be raised and lowered along the spine so it can be used as a reading lamp or to create a wash of light on the wall.
The stone top and iron base make it a solid and heavy piece. Gueco put glides underneath so he could easily move it around. “I love this table. This is my ‘splurge’ and it’s multifunctional,” he says. “When I have parties, I can raise it or use it to teach my friends mahjong. My mom gave me her mahjong set when she left for the Philippines.”
“Back in 1947, the knowledge of elephant conservation wasn’t even on the world’s radar yet,” he says. “Today is a different story. I would never buy ivory today.”
He frequents eBay and his favourite D.C. stores,GoodWood and Miss Pixie’s, where he finds accessories like the stacking plates and pop art orange screw containers seen here that were designed by Massimo Vignelli. Coincidentally, his father owned a similar set, which is important to him.
“I only keep what means something to me, and each piece tells a story,” he says. “If you have to buy something, follow the adage: Take something in, take something out.”
“I had the hardest time finding a piece of art to hang on that wall,” Guerco says about this space in the kitchen. His solution was simple: a big wooden spoon and fork, found, according to him, in every Filipino kitchen. “It adds kitsch/whimsy to balance out the sleek modern kitchen,” he explains.
He adds: “Everyone has an eye. Just follow it.”
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