Craig Appelbaum’s Arlington apartment is contemporary, casual—and dog-friendly
|Craig Appelbaum, master of the house|
|The family photos are a recent development, Appelbaum finally finding a way to balance them with his modern furniture|
|Heavy metal: Shlomo Harush’s Untitled|
Nothing pleases Craig Appelbaum more than a fresh perspective. “I like introducing people to the new,” says the owner and curator of Industry Gallery, a cutting-edge contemporary furniture gallery. “I like to be forward-thinking and to see new things.” From inside a converted auto-body repair shop in Northeast’s Trinidad neighborhood, Industry Gallery offers a platform for some of the most exciting names emerging from the world of museum-quality furniture design. Last March, Industry gave iconic Dutch designers Tejo Remy and Rene Veenhuizen their first solo show in the US. “Tejo has work in every museum in the world, and yet nobody had ever given him his first solo show—until I did,” says Appelbaum, impressively genial and energetic at 41. Also coming for his first US solo show is Tom Price, a Londoner whose sculptural chairs of melted plastic are bold, beautiful avant-garde creations (one piece, “Meltdown Cable Tie Chair,” created from 10,000 black nylon cable ties, looks like some kind of sea urchin).
More modest in scale but equally as chic, Appelbaum’s Arlington apartment can be found in the luxe, contemporary Zoso Flats complex. The 700-square-foot one-bedroom unit—with an additional 500 square feet of terrace opening to a view of the Washington Monument—features a few choice pieces he has owned for years. Most were transferred directly from a previous apartment a mile away when he moved in 2008.
“One of my old neighbors, an interior decorator,” says Appelbaum, “gave me some great advice: Don’t make the mistake of buying specifically for a place. Buy what you like, and then it will always translate to wherever you move.”
This plan has worked to perfection. The minor handful of items seem custom-made for Appelbaum’s airy, industrial space, with exposed cement ceilings and wood floors. (Funny enough, he wishes these features were reversed: “I’ve got cement floors in my gallery, and pieces look great on it.”) In the living room, an oversize paper lamp by Marcel Wanders for Cappellini, called “Shadow Lamp,” offers crisp contrast to a geometric Living Divani sofa module, upholstered in gray wool cotton and accented by a blue dog pillow from gilt.com for a touch of whimsy. “I thought it was the cutest thing ever,” Appelbaum says. “I’ve always wanted a dog, but I never want to take care of one. So I call that ‘my little dog.’ He’s great. He sits there all day and doesn’t have to be walked.”
Just to the left, a six-foot-high cabinet by Shiro Kuramata, a stack of 21 revolving drawers, delivers a dose of rich, saturated color. “I hated hearing designers talking about buying a pillow or blanket or some small item of color to pop,” says Appelbaum. “I decided that my ‘pop’ would be one of the most iconic pieces of design from the last half-century. Kuramata’s use of red is so striking and arrested and unexpected. It’s everything great design should be.”
Appelbaum is quick to point out that he did all of the decorating himself. “Nothing against interior designers, but you can always tell, walking into a home, if it’s been ‘done.’ I don’t care if you have the worst taste in the world—own it!” Modern minimalism suits the Ohio native, who moved to DC from Philadelphia in 1997. “I like open spaces, with high ceilings, white walls, a very clean look. Minimalism makes cleaning easier. I come home and it’s not sensory overload, not overwhelming. It’s calming.”
Though the space may be spartan, there is an undercurrent of playfulness. Look closely at the dark rectangular canvas by South African artist Siemon Allen over the sofa to see that its textured surface has been created out of intricately woven 45mm film from the 1950s. A Mongolian sheep rug from ABC Carpet and Home warms the space with a texture akin to a gentle foot rub.
There are other exceptions to the prevailing minimalism. When asked for a list of traditional elements in his home, Appelbaum good-naturedly offers the following scattershot catalogue: an AT&T landline phone, Radio Shack rabbit ears on his plasma TV, an old Krups coffee maker, and his grandmother’s silverware and heavy red wool throw. “My grandmother, who passed away about 15 years ago, was one strong woman,” Appelbaum says. “If you saw the shawl in someone’s French country home, you would have thought it fit in ideally. But having it here, in a contemporary setting, it works just as well.”
Daily life in Appelbaum’s home begins at 5 am, at which time he starts making calls to clients and artists in Europe on Skype. On weekdays, he works as a business development director at Special Council, a legal recruiting company, then returns home and continues his gallery dealings, Skyping to Asia at 10 at night. Two assistants oversee Industry during the week, but Appelbaum is back at the gallery fulltime on the weekend.
“I like my two different environments, work and home,” Appelbaum says. He enjoys his domestic life too much, he adds, to consider converting part of his gallery to residential space. And despite a perfectly appointed apartment, he admits to temptation with some of the designs he sells at Industry. “It’s totally dangerous. I’ve shown so many pieces that I’ve coveted so badly. But the reason I have the gallery is because I love the artists and their work so much, I want to bring them to other people. I don’t want to keep them for myself.”
photographs by greg powers