Work to Home: Sasha Bikoff's Downtown Dreamland
The New York designer bucks urbane minimalism with an over-the-top new showroom and inspiring apartment.
Most college students return from a semester spent in Paris with an immoderate sense of savoir-vivre and a taste for pain au chocolat. Sasha Bikoff came home with several binders filled with snapshots of antique furnishings and a newfound passion for interiors that would inspire one of the most deservedly buzzed-about design firms of the moment. In the last two years, the New York-based talent has decorated a dozen spaces, including her own Tribeca triplex, in an ebullient style that combines blue-chip European antiques with vintage fashion textiles and Space Age accessories. Her newly opened downtown showroom pushes the recipe to its peak, conjuring a psychedelic dollhouse that will open the eyes and test the aesthetic boundaries of any design lover.
As an undergrad abroad in 2009, Bikoff had landed enviable internships at both the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, but it was her temporary home—a classic pied-à-terre belonging to textile designer Lisa Fine—that would be her greatest point of inspiration. “When I moved into the apartment, I saw the fabric walls that matched the fabric bed that matched the fabric lamp shades,” she explains. The decorating style, known as fabric en suite, is atypical in the U.S. (and in 2016, in general), but its exuberance sparked an interest in the world of design history in which she unwittingly found herself immersed.“Here I was living in Saint-Germain,” Bikoff recalls. “That whole area is just full of famous old antique shops from the Yves Saint Laurent era." She regularly passed hours admiring and photographing the pieces in those stores, and spent weekends trolling the famed Paris flea market, Marché aux Puces. “That’s really how I taught myself about design,” she says. “When I found something I loved I would just read everything I could about it and add that to my mental database.”
Upon returning to New York, she worked in the art world for three years before turning her full attention to interiors, and moving from gallery-filled West Chelsea to a Tribeca space that could better accommodate her rapidly growing furniture collection and her burgeoning business. "This apartment was just a hole in the ground when I bought it," she says. "At that point I was kind of able to read blueprints, so I could visualize the space." Her request to the builders: an open, lofty, white, and ironically pretty gallery-like volume with as much storage as they could muster.
The second-floor master suite was sheathed in a favorite glossy pink, and a tiny second bedroom opened up to become a boutique-like closet. While undoubtedly indulgent, the walk-in holds not only Bikoff's own wardrobe, but a veritable archive of vintage fashions passed down from her mother and grandmother. In the same space, an antique crystal parrot chandelier hangs above a decorative ash tray sporting the visage of rapper Rick Ross, a testament to Bikoff's jocular playbook. The ground floor functions as office and occasional showroom in addition to living space. "Moving into my apartment gave me more confidence because I was testing things out on myself," says the designer. "I don’t really think of it as decorated because it’s changing everyday. I’m constantly moving things in and out."
As her business grew, Bikoff knew she had to find a professional space that wasn't also her home. "My basement was exploding with inventory," she explains. "I needed to stop buying and start selling." So instead of finding an office, she decided to open a boutique and curate it like the Parisian antique stores that had inspired her years before. As real-estate fate would have it, the perfect location was less than a block from her front door. She signed a lease on the 1,800-square-foot space and set about transforming it into a Downtown wonderland. Where her apartment had functioned as a laboratory, the shop would be a showplace for her fresh-feeling style of curation.
While living in Paris, Bikoff became obsessed with the Space Age style movement of the '60s—all curvaceous forms, funky textures and bright hues—and made pilgrimages to Italy's Murano Island, home of the famously colorful glassware. Back home she found fertile antiquing territory in Pucci-loving Palm Beach and nursed fashion industry relationships that would land her textile remnants from the collections of Marc Jacobs and Dolce & Gabbana. While her industry knowledge continued to expand exponentially, her designer's eye became laser focused.
The pieces in Bikoff's showroom are all antiques, whether 18th-century French or midcentury American, but the way they've been reinvented, with completely self-aware flamboyance, nods to the designer's nostalgia for a more recent period: the over-the-top '80s. "My generation isn’t like the one before us; we want pieces that are something to talk about," she explains. "We want that chair that’s going to make a statement." Of course this also suits the Instagrammable inclinations of her trendsetting clientele. "I have guys that come in here and they want that Chanel pillow because it has a hip-hop reference to it," she says.
It's this unabashedly bombastic spirit that sets the shop apart from its linen-shrouded Tribeca neighbors. It's a history lesson dipped in palatable pink frosting, and a sign of a return to the kind of luxe from which its contents hail, whether that's Louis XV or Louis Vuitton. It has also placed Bikoff at the fore of a funky, feminine, and above-all-else fun moment for the design world.