Mighty Curves | Robb Report

Mighty Curves
How a CEO plans to retire—along with his antique car collection, which includes a sleek 1949 Lincoln Continental convertible—to Montana.

5177267The soft-spoken CEO plans to retire—along with his antique car collection, which includes a sleek 1949 Lincoln Continental convertible—to Montana. The location of his retirement is still just a large hole in the ground, but he is not concerned. He has faith in Cheryl Gardner, the designer who just completed his 3,200-square-foot lakeside condo outside Minneapolis.

Like so many other buyers of luxury condos, the CEO bought location and view; other than that, he acquired a sequence of expensive, low-ceilinged concrete boxes. Gardner, tapped to reconfigure that property, was blessedly unconstrained by budgetary limits. She faced, she says, “only one big challenge. I had to make the place beautiful without sacrificing the focus on Lake Minnetonka.”

Although he was looking for high-end design, the client wanted comfort, not “do not touch” perfection. He admires the classics as well as Art Deco, and is “quite understated, but knows what he likes when he sees it,” says Gardner, a native New Yorker who lived and worked in Minneapolis for 14 years before moving to Los Angeles six years ago. Along the way, she has cultivated a design consciousness more cosmopolitan than that of many of her Midwestern peers, whose approaches are ruled by conventional views of what is “masculine.” The Minneapolis CEO, says Gardner, is a “modern man” who does not need plaids and other design clichés to proclaim his masculinity. “He likes his environment to look great and stylized.” She used materials such as silk, mohair and African anigre wood to create a sexy and cool interior with simple lines that do not allow for ruffles and tassels. [expand]

To offset the condo’s dead-ending, right-angled corners, she let curving walls suggest a liquid flow that eases us from one space to another. The blueprints of the Lake Minnetonka home reveal an underlying geometry: steps, walls and built-in cabinetry curl counter-rhythmically to the ceiling’s curving soffits. The foyer opens onto a hall graced by backlit columns. The hallway crosses diagonally through the unit, and Gardner’s scheme for the entrance sets the mood for the apartment: an Art Deco sculpture of Diana, goddess of the hunt; black granite; warmly masculine anigre and cherry millwork inlaid with walnut diamonds; and a laser-cut stone starburst on the floor.

The wall panels of the formal dining room match the hallway’s anigre and walnut woodwork, and French limestone floors are studded with Italian mosaic insets. Beams of light shoot from the table’s centerpiece, which Gardner filled with crystal balls that are lit by a low-voltage crystal drop in the ceiling. And the curved soffits—faux-painted stone and aged pewter—do more than beckon guests to the dinner table: They hide ugly air ducts.

To achieve a softer atmosphere in the guest suite,  Gardner chose hand-painted wallpaper and had the ceiling painted to reflect the paper’s golden hues. The bath in the guest suite is also lighter.

The kitchen features a pop-up television and a U-Line wine cabinet next to a banquette. And the view of the lake responds to the client’s single non-negotiable must-have. The adjoining living room offers window seats that provide storage space and a choice spot for watching a model train, a gift from the builder on the job.

The green marble master bath was near the top of the CEO’s wish list. “I designed the cabinets and soffits around a circle and the yin-yang principle of opposites,” Gardner says. “The cabinet shapes are the exact opposite of the coved soffits above. If a line were to go all the way around the bathroom, it would form a complete circle. The shower bench continues the curve. Roman shades provide the requisite privacy, and they also conceal rooftops from view. There is even a self-activating toilet behind a pocket door.”

Gardner’s geometric discipline, paired with an unfussy approach to gorgeous materials, defines today’s refined, cutting-edge masculinity. And it is how a cold concrete condo becomes a small palace.[/expand]