I have a very exciting business feature for you this week, Andrew Baseman, an American designer who founded his design firm, Andrew Baseman Design, Inc. in 2003, after working for more than 20 years as a designer, decorator and stylist. He opened his own design business after producers kept asking him to design their own homes, and he realised he could turn his set design to real life homes! His portfolio is incredibly diverse, with projects including work in film and television on The Nanny Diaries, Eat Pray Love and The Americans, working with notable directors Ryan Murphy, Bill Condon, Jane Campion and others.
With a BFA in Set & Costume Design from Carnegie Mellon University, he moved to NYC, building models and decorating sets for the original Broadway productions of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound. Other favorite projects of his include Liebeslieder Walzer and A Schubertiad, both choreographed by Peter Martins for New York City Ballet. Recently, he served as Resident Set Designer at Ars Nova Theatre in New York City.
What connected Andrew to my work, is his lifelong passion for collecting and selling antiques, which began at an early age and continues to inspire his design work today. He shares the most exquisite finds on his Instagram account. He is the author of The Scarf (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), the classic illustrated art book chronicling the history of the printed scarf that reflects both his expertise and love of textiles.
Andrew’s blog, Past Imperfect: The Art of Inventive Repair, was featured in a cover story in The New York Times Home & Garden section. It chronicles his world-renowned collection of antiques with inventive repairs, also known as “make-do’s”. This is a beautiful story of a gathering of upcycled pieces from across the centuries, pieces that other Antique collectors may pass over. Antiques with inventive repairs (also known as “make-do” repairs) are unique examples of necessity and thrift, made during a time before Krazy Glue was invented. Unlike today where we discard anything chipped or cracked, broken household items were repaired at home or taken to a metalsmith to be brought back to life, often with whimsical results. Once regarded merely as damaged goods by antiques dealers and collectors alike, antiques with inventive repairs are justly receiving the respect they deserve. Andrew shares these remarkable and often beautiful finds on his blog and Instagram account.
Andrew lives in New York City, in a 1937, 850 square foot, Art Deco one bedroom apartment, which is built from brick & terracotta. He recycles plastic, metal, and paper and says he wishes he could compost but his building does not offer that as an option and adding further sustainable steps is tricky in a NYC pre-war apartment. Andrew and his spouse, Mark and their 2 cats, Bridget & Lucy live in the apartment.
How did you find your home?
I had rented a similar one-bedroom apartment in the same building many years ago and always wanted to return. It’s a friendly building in a great neighborhood in the middle of Manhattan and we were able to buy our apartment before the last housing boom.
What made you fall in love with it?
It’s the quietest apartment I have lived in in NYC. The building is made up of 4 units surrounding a tranquil garden. All of the windows look out on to the garden so I never hear street traffic. The garden attracts many different types of birds, including cardinals, morning doves and warm summer evenings are filled with twinkling fireflies. We have a garden apartment and our cats love sitting on the wide window sills, eye to eye with chirping birds.
Was there anything you didn’t love about it?
I wish it were larger! By New York City standards it’s considered a “large” one bedroom apartment, but I still crave for a guest room/office and second bathroom. Other than that I have no complaints.
Are there things you still want to change?
Even though I am an interior designer for high-end residences and a set decorator for film & television, for which I buy furnishings daily, I have never been able to finish my own living space. I guess it’s like the shoemaker’s children going barefoot. I would love to repaint, redo the bathroom, update my kitchen…you get the picture.
Do you plan to live here long term?
I have lived in Manhattan for over 30 years, with a brief 6 month “what was I thinking” stint in Miami Beach, Florida, so clearly I love NYC. But I do imagine living in another city, town or country, ideally having a home base in England, enabling me to travel easily throughout Europe. Not sure where we will be retiring but hoping it’s someplace warm.
Can you tell us something you like about your local area or region?
Practically everything is at our fingertips and in walking distance, including a few grocery stores, farmer’s market, 24-hour pharmacies, numerous restaurants, a library, multiplex movie theatre, hardware stores, dry cleaners…all within one square block!
What are your thoughts on sustainability and how is this part of your home?
My main practice of sustainability is filling my apartment and living with antiques, which I feel is the earliest form of recycling. Whenever possible, I buy useful everyday antique and vintage items, rather than new plastic ones from a big-box store. Obvious items include furniture, lamps, rugs, and dishes. But I also purchase vintage books, fabrics, artwork, office supplies, clothing & accessories. Not only do I prefer the design, look, and feel of vintage but typically it’s less expensive than buying new.
What is your decorating style?
I have called my decorating style “eclectic” long before it was fashionable. I just love so many different periods of design and have no problem mixing them together along with good modern items. As a teenager, I collected examples of Art Deco, primitives, post cards, country, etc. I even had an enormous paper mache lap desk with a hand painted castle decoration and mother of pearl inlay. I still have an unusual mix of just about every style. Except for kitsch, which I grew tired of after amassing a huge collation of paint-by-numbers paintings.
What is the inspiration for the decorating and design of your home?
I studied theatrical set design in college, working on diverse projects and productions ranging from ancient Greek tragedies and Victorian melodramas, to Depression era screwball comedies and contemporary American dramas. I loved researching the periods and discovered I liked many design elements about each one. Slowly I found furnishings from all different periods making their way into my apartment and I liked the overall affect of the unusual mix.
Your favorite part of your home?
I like hanging out in our living room, surrounding myself with books and a large collection of paintings and photography we have collected over the years. I only want to live with items I really love, as opposed to just having lots of stuff taking up space.
Biggest Challenge in designing or decorating your home?
Being objective. I can tell a friend or client in an instant what color to paint their bedroom or what window treatments to use in their living room, but I find it hard to know what’s best for my own home. It’s not that I’m indecisive, which I am not, but more to do with finding a suitable option that I can afford.
What do people say when they come to visit you?
Most want to see my collection of antiques with inventive repairs, aka make-do’s, many of which are displayed in a vintage stainless steel medical cabinet in my entry hall. Many guests like the artwork as well.
Do you recommend any particular materials, processes or ideas for people wanting to create a more sustainable and mindful home?
I tell my clients and friends to incorporate vintage and antique items into their own homes and I am happy to say that I have converted quite a few of them.
What do you do to relax and unwind at home?
After a typical day of working at least 12 hours on a film or TV project, I can’t wait to get home, eat dinner, watch a pre-recorded TV show or movie, then off to bed. On most weekends we go to our farmhouse upstate in the Catskills where we do most of our relaxing. We have an old chicken farm with large house, barn and pond. I work on my blog and book projects in my second floor office and in the summer I look forward to picking wild blueberries on our property. I can spend hours doing that and tuning out everything else around me.
Would you like to share a favourite recipe you cook at home?
I don’t cook but I do make blueberry jam from our wild blueberries, as mentioned above. Mark is an excellent cook and makes amazing ice cream and enjoys bread baking. I blame my ever-expanding waistline on him.
This is one of the most interesting upcycling stories I have come across due to Andrew’s passion for collecting these make do pieces which tie us to a long human history of upcycling, his work in television and theatre and his NYC lifestyle. Did you love it too? You can see more and follow Andrew on his blog.
Do you have any inventive repairs in your home?