N 800-square-foot apartment that sits practically on top
of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and around the corner from an
entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel may not be everyone's idea
of an urban oasis. But for Avi Adler and David Stark, a renovated
one-bedroom home on the roof of a nondescript 1940's Brooklyn
building is paradise found.
Mr. Stark, 32, and Mr. Adler, 45, partners in life and work, own
and operate Avi Adler, a company known for offbeat designs for
weddings, fund-raisers and other events. Elevating party décor and
floral design to the level of installation art, they use unsung
materials like copper tubing and carnations — often in astonishing
masses — to create modern, sophisticated environments. The highlight
of their design for the Robin Hood Foundation dinner at the Jacob K.
Javits Convention Center last month was a path made of yellow
aquarium gravel, protea flowers and chrysanthemums in a forest of
green cardboard mailing tubes.
They began working in 1992 in a rented 2,500-square-foot loftlike
apartment, which was also their home, in a building on Luquer Street
on the outskirts of Carroll Gardens. Crammed with props, flowers and
staff members, their living space was quickly overrun. "Whenever we
needed to put in another desk," Mr. Adler said, "we'd get rid of a
dresser or our kitchen table."
Mr. Stark added: "Most nights we had to dump props off our bed
before we could actually get into it."
Three years ago they purchased the building and separated their
work lives and their personal lives. The business moved to a
first-floor commercial space, and they renovated a small apartment
on the building's rooftop for their home.
Jim Bartholomew, an architect in Chelsea, transformed the tight
two- bedroom apartment into an airy single-bedroom space with plenty
of closets, if not much elbow room. A floating storage wall 20 feet
long and 4 feet deep, with access on both sides, hides most of their
After living with the clutter of their work space, Mr. Stark said
he wanted to come home and "not see any stuff at all." So he and Mr.
Adler gave Mr. Bartholomew a wish list that included all the objects
they wanted to remove from view.
The storage wall houses a washer, dryer and dishwasher,
television, stereo speakers, books and bed linens, rendering the
apartment a testament to clutter- free living.
The storage wall also separates public spaces (the living room,
kitchen and dining area) from private (bedroom and bathroom).
"Jim used to tease us that he doesn't trust people who don't have
books visible in their home," Mr. Stark said. "But I know I have
books, and I know where they are. I don't care whether other people
can see them."
Such discussions were typical among them, and when it came to
choosing details, the aesthetic of Mr. Adler and Mr. Stark again
prevailed. Surprisingly, given their exuberant designs for events,
their choices for surface finishes were decidedly subdued.
The architect suggested a warm wood finish on the storage wall
and a dark slate or ebonized wood floor to create a homey
environment. Instead, they ordered everything painted white, with
light maple flooring.
"We always envisioned this place white to keep the light bouncing
around it and make it feel as spacious as possible," Mr. Adler said.
"The problem is, it takes a lot of courage to add any color to a
Yet Mr. Adler and Mr. Stark never worried that the place would
feel too sterile. "We're constantly experimenting with colors, forms
and fabrics, and we knew they'd follow us home," Mr. Stark said.
"We'll get obsessed with a certain color and paint everything that
color." At the moment, a fluorescent-yellow painting, made for an
event, hangs above their gray living room couch.
The outdoor area is lavish, encompassing a 500-square-foot
pergola- porch and almost 865 square feet of deck on two levels.
They use the porch, reached by two sets of center- folding glass
doors, each over 8 feet wide, in the wall of the main living space,
as a place to entertain and relax. They even use it in the rain (the
pergola is topped with translucent acrylic).
They spent $200,000 and eight months, twice as much as they
planned in both time and money, on the renovation.
"There were a lot of structural problems we had to fix before we
could make much progress," Mr. Stark said. But it was worth the
trouble. "Being able to walk from the inside directly to the
outdoors has always been my dream," Mr. Stark said. "My greatest
desire has always been to live in the most luxurious hotel suite
imaginable, except with my own stuff in it."
Even the ever-present honks, brake squeals and hum of passing
trucks do not diminish their experience. "We joke that it sounds to
us like the ocean," Mr. Stark said.