Eclectic New York Loft full of collections.

Posted: 25/09/2013 in Houses
Tags: , , , , ,

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BRADLEY DARRYL WONG is finally settling into his Eclectic New York Loft apartment. Not that the place, a ground-floor loft with a subterranean bedroom on East Fourth Street, is new, exactly.
But the settling-in part — the purging, the decorating, the home-making — well, these things take time, particularly if you’re a hardworking actor and single father constantly battling entropy or rather fixedly engaged in “the struggle to control my surroundings as opposed to my surroundings controlling me,” as Mr. Wong, 51, puts it.

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Because of the accumulation of objects,” he continued, “things are never quite the way I want them to be. There has always been a lack of, well, clarity.”
On a recent August morning, Mr. Wong opened his front doors to two visitors, this reporter and Mr. Wong’s architect, Jack Wettling, and showed off a few victories: 70-odd pairs of shoes corralled into 32 wire baskets in a locker-room storage unit in the front hall; three spit-spot closets arrayed with armfuls of colored yarn in clear plastic bags, tidy rows of hats and suit coats lined up like soldiers, all behind doors stenciled with the ghosts of long-defunct businesses harvested from the basement of the Puck Building nearby.

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Finally, in a back room, there was a vast and curious piece of furniture made from old sewing drawers, yardsticks and reclaimed wood, built by a friend to replace the massive rolling wire bookshelf filled with DVDs, photos and books that had been Mr. Wong’s nemesis for the last few years.

Mr. Wong, whose off-screen presence is closer to that of Dr. George Huang, the soothing forensic psychiatrist he played for 11 seasons on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” than Song Liling, his stunning Broadway debut as the gender-ambiguous love interest in David Henry Hwang’s 1988 play, “M. Butterfly,” professes “a profound discomfort with throwing things away.”

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He saves leather shoelaces, buttons and the thread and fabric swatches you get when you buy new sweaters and suit coats. He also collects yarn, vintage grease cans, 19th-century chiming clocks, yardsticks and old sewing drawers, which he accrues during episodic eBay forays. He likes old plumbing valves and fixtures, vintage hardware and a good deal. He drags furniture in off the street. Things do pile up, he said.

Mr. Wong extracted an aluminum stovetop percolator from a cupboard and rifled around for the coffee to fill it for some time before giving up and phoning his boyfriend, Richert Schnorr, for help. “He’s the coffee maker,” Mr. Wong said later.

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EAST FOURTH STREET is Mr. Wong’s third project with Mr. Wettling. The first, a loft on West 55th Street where Mr. Wong lived with his longtime partner, Richie Jackson, a television producer, was also filled with found objects: pieces of Andy Warhol’s Factory, including office doors stenciled with Warhol’s aphorisms, as well as family treasures like a floor border made from his mother’s mah-jongg tiles. The second apartment was a larger loft in Chelsea, bought and renovated for the family Mr. Jackson and Mr. Wong were planning to have.

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In 2000, the couple had twin sons with a surrogate mother, born three months prematurely. The older one, Boaz Dov, lived only 90 minutes. His brother, Jackson Foo Wong, now a healthy 12-year-old, battled developmental setbacks and health crises in a neonatal care unit in San Francisco.

The darkly humorous e-mail newsletters that Mr. Wong sent to a widening circle of friends, family and colleagues were collected in a book, “Following Foo (the electronic adventures of the Chestnut Man),” in 2003. In it, Mr. Wong details the helplessness of new parenthood as experienced through the harrowing prism of the neonatal nursery in which Jackson’s milestones — a sponge bath, a bottle feeding, breathing by himself — approach and recede in terrifying episodes.

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A year after the book was published, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Wong broke up, their 18-year relationship “the collateral damage,” Mr. Wong said, of losing a child. Yet, he added, although they live apart, they are united in knowing what it means to experience that loss (“this sense of being marked forever,” he said). And in their ongoing role as parents. Jackson lives with both his dads, in an arrangement that sees him uptown with Mr. Jackson and his new partner, Jordan Roth, during the week, and downtown with Mr. Wong on weekends.

As a result, Mr. Wong said: “Our house, this place, has become incredibly important, because I felt the disappointment and shame that my son was the fruit of a broken home. I felt a sense of being broken, and robbing him of a full family experience.”

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In 2005, Mr. Wong bought this apartment for $1.25 million (he thanks “Law & Order” for the paychecks that made that possible) from William Sofield, the architect of Tom Ford’s Gucci stores, who had been living there since the mid-1990s.

The two men share a personal trainer, Rob Morea, who is also, conveniently, a real estate broker. They also share a taste for underground, underlighted places like this one.

“I’m basically nocturnal,” Mr. Wong said. “This is not the place for a daylight queen.”

The space had been, variously, a sweatshop, a Yiddish theater and a pornographic theater. When Mr. Sofield moved in, he had excavated the basement room and found carcasses of sewing machines along with old sets, props and scripts. He gave it his own decadent stamp — Mr. Wettling and Mr. Wong described it as a cross between a ’70s disco and a Charivari boutique — with silvered walls, much stainless steel and a quartet of Warhol’s electric chair prints; in 2000, Nan Goldin photographed the apartment for Elle Décor. (Recently, Mr. Sofield recalled the day his mother came to visit and wound up in the Merchant’s House Museum next door. Margaret Gardiner, the museum’s executive director, phoned him to say: “Are you expecting a mother, Bill? Because there is a woman wandering around the museum criticizing the décor. I don’t know how to break it to her that this isn’t where you live.”)

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Comments
  1. So many cool elements in this loft…but particularly love the old doors from long-gone businesses. They make my heart beat a bit faster 🙂

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