Exuberant hues, kaleidoscopic patterns, strong shapes—the looks that float down Peter Som's runways wear their bravura on their sleeves. But while this bold aesthetic has brought him the kind of acclaim that can breed Versailles-style ostentation in nearly every facet of life, the American fashion designer has established a reputation for an urbane kind of elegance that extends far beyond the runway. In his New York City apartment—a gracious two-bedroom in a charming prewar building in the West Village—he eschews heavy-handed design flourishes for a more restrained approach. "Obviously, my clothing line is where I put my love of bright colors and prints and florals," says the designer. "My apartment is my refuge from all of that. I have a stripe here and there, but it's mostly neutral with pops of color coming from the artwork."
For Som, who despite constant travel has been a resident of the building for nearly 20 years, his home exemplifies an appreciation for a practical sort of minimalism. When the studio above his apartment became available, he bought it and enlisted New York City architects Jeffrey Cayle and Ian Colburn to create a plan that joined both, opening the space and improving the flow while maintaining the structure's pre-war proportions. "I was inspired by clean lines, but with warmth," says Som. "My interiors and fashion style are similar in that I try to achieve a balance of ease and elegance."
It's a sensibility no doubt honed over a stylish upbringing. The son of San Francisco-based architects, Som pairs iconic silhouettes and a penchant for understated sophistication throughout his home. "I grew up in a house full of Bauhaus and midcentury furniture, so having modern classics like the Saarinen table reminds me of my childhood." He's referring, of course, to the anchor in his new dining area, a light-filled space that feels timeless thanks to the addition of cane-backed seating and a stately two-toned secretary by the German modernist designer Tommi Parzinger. Seagrass flooring from ABC Carpet & Home ties the scene with an eclectic living room, the centerpiece of which is the agreeable sort of sofa you'd least expect from a modern design master—except that his is by George Smith and upholstered in a luxe charcoal fabric by Raoul Textiles. "I want comfort and function to be first—but never sacrificing style."
The room's artwork alone rises to the challenge: contemporary pieces by Mexican artist Jose Dávila and Swedish painter Mia Enell offset the neutral interiors. An antique Brutalist coffee table adheres to the simple yet interesting mantra, as does the Mad Men-worthy Mel Smilow lounge chair swathed in cult-favorite Scalamandré fabric. The walls are skim-coated in a pale gray that changes with the light depending on the time of day—an effect that oscillates between crisp and moody against the room's darker Walnut accents. "At the end of the day it feels like a home—comfortable and filled with things that I love and have collected over the years," says Som. "Whether I’m just chilling and watching TV, having a few friends over for dinner, or having a party with 30 people, the space works."
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the kitchen, where Som devoted much of his energy. "I was quite obsessed with the kitchen design since I love to cook so much—and even with the kitchen doubling in size it was a jigsaw puzzle to get everything I wanted in." But with Cayle and Colburn's help he more than managed, installing cerused-oak cabinetry and Carrara marble countertops for a masculine look that's modern yet classic. To maximize space, Som converted a closet in what used to be the entry foyer into a pantry with a wine refrigerator. Overhead, stainless steel open shelving and vintage lighting from the 1920s add a utilitarian element that's in keeping with the rest of the apartment's subtlety.
It's only in the studio's former kitchen, now a study off his immaculate and tailored bedroom, where Som allows his carefully cultivated restraint to waver. There, a fabric-draped pin board displays the notes, inspiration, and mementos that Som has amassed over a lifetime, each spilling messages of love and well wishes onto the next like passages in a yearbook that manage to live on beyond fading summers. That the sentimentality of the room belies its true purpose as a creative space is perhaps part of the appeal. "I love sketching in the study—the light from the window is amazing, and I love such a lovely view of the West Village from it," the designer says. It's a visible symbol of the more permanent roots Som has set down in this tiny corner of Manhattan, a place where sometimes even a visionary can find serenity—in the comfort of his own home.
SHOP Peter Som's new collection for Anthropologie, right here.