PHOTOGRAPHY & TEXT HANS FONK

She originally planned to stay in New York City for six months. In the end the United States was to become her second homeland. She is very much in demand as an architect and interior designer and has succeeded with her creative talents in accumulating a multitude of clients, especially from Brazil. OBJEKT©International met her in an apartment she had just finished decorating for a client from the Lebanon to his considerable satisfaction. The best way to describe the make-over is ‘rigorous’, since she restructured the interior, giving it a completely new dimension; Cristiana Mascarenhas.

Cristiana Mascarenhas studied at the same university in Rio de Janeiro as some of her celebrated predecessors, including the architect Oscar Niemeyer. After graduating she went to the United States, for a 2-month sabbatical in Manhattan. And those two months turned into more than 20 years! The sabbatical character of her trip soon changed, when compatriots of hers asked her to design their home in New York City. In 1992 she opened her own studio, which today, under the name ‘In Plus’, is held in high repute. It prides itself on a substantial portfolio of interiors, and even entire houses.

“Our studio specialises in projects ranging from a blank canvas to a whole interior into which the client just needs to move in. We hang up the paintings, provide flowers – so produce a veritable turnkey package. We invariably pull out the existing interior, including walls, and create a logical flow through the house”, as Cristiana explained. That was the case with this apartment, situated in a building designed by the famous architect, Robert A.M. Stern – a man with a predilection for excess. He also lived in that block of flats himself. “It was a traditional building à la Stern. The quality was not optimal and when I got the assignment, I decided to completely reconfigure the place – with the client’s approval. It had to be a modern entity – at variance with Robert Stern’s style. I was given free rein to do whatever I thought fit. I created an open feel throughout.

I did lower some of the ceilings a little to conceal the lighting, but based the other dimensions on what best suited the apartment. The dining room and kitchen are now located on the same side, and the living room with views to the west is on the other side. The two sides are connected by a long corridor with walnut flooring. Altogether the apartment now has three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom.

We also designed a study-cum- television room with a special wooden sliding door in modern, Arabian-inspired motif. Initially the client was somewhat concerned about the design, but I managed to convince him and now its one of the eye-catchers in the room. I wanted that door to allow light through, but also have an interesting effect. I was inspired by the traditional latticework grilles in the Middle East, giving it a modern, stylised twist. I was sure it was a good idea and now the client is extremely proud of it”, Cristiana Mascarenhas told us.

The covering of the air-conditioning is also an interesting feature, comprising vertical , square-cut rods and designed by Cristiana herself. Also, her choice of light fittings: they were sourced from .PSLAB in Beirut, Lebanon. “They shopped around for the furniture and accessories. The client wanted only modern furniture and modern art.” When we asked the architect about her style, she replied: “Our In Plus studio has a contemporary style with a twist – the latter relating to the character of the client. For instance, if there’s furniture from a family inheritance, we’ll always try to integrate it in the design.”

Her working method has won her many true fans. It’s the Brazilians in particular who seek her out and appreciate her work. “Brazilians are purchasing better and more attractive real estate than ever in New York, meaning that with my team I have decorated more than 40 apartments since 2010, mainly for compatriots. Once you’ve built up a good relationship with them they’re inclined to call you in for their next residences, apartments and holiday homes.”