From Sun Magazine: Christian Siriano's style pervades his Chelsea flat

'Project Runway' winner, partner mix antique, eclectic elements in apartment

  • Christian Siriano (left) and Brad Walsh, with their dogs, Bear and Topper.
Christian Siriano (left) and Brad Walsh, with their dogs, Bear… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
November 14, 2012|By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK — The massive round metal mirror in the foyer was one of the first purchases Christian Siriano made after winning the fourth season of "Project Runway."

The two small framed Victorian paintings in the living room were passed down from his mother.

And a turquoise-patterned pillow, which decorates an ivory chaise longue, is Siriano's own creation. He offers it at his newly opened namesake store, a 1,000-square-foot boutique where he sells his frocks, shoes and purses.

The Annapolis native seems to have a story about every one of the furnishings and accessories in his Manhattan apartment. They, in turn, tell a tale of a designer rising in his field yet finding refuge where he lives.

"Home is the escape from the formality of the world," Siriano says on a visit during New York Fashion Week. "There are no boundaries. It's all yours, and you can be creative with no outside limitations. It's about comfort and love and living happily."

That means, for instance, "I have about 50 pillows throughout my home," he says. "I'm obsessed with chairs and pillows."

Perhaps that seems excessive. But they help create the retreat Siriano seeks. After all, he admits that he spends much of his weekend lounging around his apartment, recuperating from his fast-paced weeks.

An in-demand designer and businessman, Siriano lives with his boyfriend of five years, Brad Walsh, and their two dogs, Bear and Topper. The 2,000-square-foot space is in Chelsea, in the heart of the bustling Fashion Avenue.

Blond wood floors and exposed brick walls set the stage. The one-bedroom apartment features two large skylights, while an oversized bedroom window casts bright cheer. The natural light also showcases the treasures the pair have amassed in four years of living together. They have called this home for two years, since moving from a brownstone in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn to be closer to Siriano's Manhattan design studio.

It was a struggle finding the apartment, Siriano admits. He estimates that they looked at 10 places and worked with two brokers before choosing.

In this apartment, each room, nook and wall tells a story.

For example, Siriano sees a large mirror with gold frame and recalls the pain of moving.

"It was so stupid to get it here from our old Brooklyn brownstone," he says, recalling the workers of his favorite moving company hauling that monster up five flights without an elevator to an apartment that was not yet fully furnished.

Still, "There were eight of them, and all they wanted was to break for lunch and eat chicken and broccoli. So there we all were, me and Brad, and the eight guys sitting on the floor eating chicken and broccoli. I was thinking to myself, 'This is so nice.' "

Steps from the mirror is a large open space, where a tree typically stands at Christmastime.

"During the holidays, there's garland everywhere," he says. "And it's the best fake tree you've ever seen."

A rustic-looking wooden tomato sign in the kitchen takes Siriano back to the time he and Walsh were antique shopping with actress Kristen Johnson of "3rd Rock From the Sun" fame.

"She came over to us and said" — imitating the actress' rasp — " 'Don't you need this?' Then she bought it for us."

Most pieces in the apartment result from the couple's favorite weekend activity: antiquing. They regularly hit up spots in New York and the surrounding area.

They've had plenty of success.

"We bought a bunch of things in the Hamptons," Siriano says. "We got some knickknacks and lamps from a store in Paris. We love the Chelsea antiques."

The two also comb the Web.

"We've had stuff shipped from this store, Pom Pom Interiors in L.A.," Siriano says. "There are some pieces from my first apartment. It's a mix."

Among the antiques, Siriano and Walsh have added modern accents and pieces passed down from family.

"We have all these eclectic things. Putting them together is a game," he says.

Some might hesitate before incorporating a fur serving tray and an animal-skin rug in a living room filled with antiques. Not Siriano. He loves to decorate with rich texture.

"It's like a styling job," he says. "Taste is really important."

The showroom and anchor of the apartment is the living room, a spacious area reminiscent of a museum, with its perfectly spaced, opulent-looking paintings, antique chairs and bird cages.

"People are so intimidated by this room. They are afraid to sit down," Siriano says as he plops down on the massive plush couch.

Siriano pointed out two French-style chairs that he purchased from a dealer in San Francisco.

"I just love them," he says, laughing. "They were my first purchase after winning 'Project Runway.' They cost so much, I couldn't buy anything else after that."

The kitchen contains several of the couple's favorite pieces.

The first is a framed painting of the two that sits atop a row of cream-colored cabinets. The artwork, by local artist Barnaby Ruhe, took 15 minutes to whip up.

"He really captures you," Siriano says.

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