Armando Aguirre was ready to make a change. After living on the Upper West Side for years—during which he turned a 250-square-foot apartment into a pandemic-era canvas of creative expression—Armando felt an unignorable push to try something new. “In my career as an interior designer, I’ve worked on every type of project available,” he says. “And I wanted to be closer to where my social life was.”
That gut feeling was telling Armando to level up and move somewhere in New York with the type of square footage that didn’t feel as precarious during a morning stretch or a late-night return. But the more he considered this shift, the more he also entertained the idea of starting his own namesake design firm. Change, at least in Armando’s case, was contagious.
“My last apartment was about hyper-functionality,” he explains. “This one has a little breathing room. I was less concerned about ‘finishing it,’ in the sense of how a designer packages up a project and delivers it to a client as one complete space. I took my time, because I wanted it to reflect where I am right now.” Armando found the fresh start he’d been searching for in a West Village apartment, where a century-old iron staircase leads to what he refers to as a “very generous studio” about double the size of his last place. There still isn’t a door separating his bedroom from the common areas, but at least there’s a way to partition one. And besides, the walls are made of concrete, the ceilings are high, and when he looks out onto a courtyard, he’s reminded of beloved scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. “This is a very solid building; I’ve never heard a sound from my neighbors,” Armando says. “There’s a lot of natural light, and I have rounded archways and base moldings.”
As was the case with his prior apartment, Armando focused his attention on perfecting a spatial plan. He feels more confident in his style these days, but has also gained the wisdom of, “Hey, maybe I won’t get it right the first time” and can revisit ideas he might’ve previously set in stone. He kept a few former pieces in the mix, like the daybed and folding screen he built, but worked to integrate them into a present perspective. Since Armando was hoping to create a home and a calling card for his new business, every corner had to have intention.
Armando had an upholstered headboard made for a simple wood bed frame, which is separated from the living and work areas by canvas cut by the yard and turned into drapery. (“As long as you can have someone make it so it drapes beautifully, you can create curtains out of almost anything,” he notes.) A vintage dresser by Peter Hvidt sits below a black-lined mirror as a subtle showpiece, and that leads to a defined living area that includes a Charles Pfister armchair, a pair of Charles Pollock leather seats, and a bookcase by George Nelson. Aside from his daybed and folding screen, Armando also built the L-bracket side table, a lamp behind the bookcase, and flower vase on the window frame.
If you’re noticing a theme of 20th-century architects and designers, your instincts are correct. Armando outfitted a serene yet sophisticated apartment with the work of his industry’s giants from a tip he picked up earlier in his career. “There’s a certain quality to items made in the past, which doesn’t quite exist now,” he says. “But these vintage pieces were made during the lifetimes of these designers, so they look and feel exactly how they were intended. These are the most accurate versions of the form.”
The mix of past and present, hardware store and showroom, are all a part of Armando’s design ethos: Nothing has to be too precious, and everything is open to an edit. Save the eye-catching artwork, pay attention to good lighting, and don’t be afraid to shed what no longer serves you. In a home as well as in a career, what you build is what you relish.
“I saw this apartment as an opportunity to really understand composition,” Armando says. “Someone else could have laid all of this out completely differently, but this is how I chose to do it. Learning how to trust myself is what has led me here.”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest
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