Though Andrew and Heather Wagner originally met at the London Wine bar in San Francisco, it was an innocent misunderstanding three months later (on their first date) that landed Heather in the bathroom of a restaurant, quickly readying herself for the out of town wedding she and Andrew were attending together (which she thought she’d have much more time to get fixed up for!), that solidified the pair was destined for something special and off the beaten path. Years later, married, and on the opposite coast, itʼs this type of unfettered think-on-your-feet and act-quickly resolve that landed Heather, the copy-director at Elle Magazine, and Andrew, director of Krrb, a wonderfully eclectic and historically rich home in a sought after area of NYC. We were thrilled to be invited in and more than satisfied to report that it perfectly reflects their balance of character in every way imaginable.
Talk to us a bit about the places youʼve lived and what drew you to NYC?
I was born in New Haven, Connecticut and grew up in Davis, California. After going to college in New London, Connecticut, I moved to San Francisco and lived there for about 11 years. In 2006 my wife Heather and I moved to New York City so I could take over as the editor-in-chief of American Craft magazine. Both of us are from California but have always loved New York so this was a great opportunity to explore a new city. Both of our families are all still in the Bay Area though so that kind of stinks.
And what keeps you in New York?
New York is ever changing. Every time you set foot outside your door is an adventure. It is highly engaging and always keeps you guessing. My advice would be if youʼre a nature lover, itʼs probably not the place for you, though there are some of the best beaches in the world within 20 miles of our stoop. If you are a people person, thereʼs no better place. Iʼm both so it is a love/hate thing, which New York is for most people. Itʼs intense which is great and exhausting.
What drew you to your specific neighborhood and to your home?
Weʼre incredibly lucky to live in Tribeca, the only neighborhood in New York weʼve ever lived in. It has become an unbelievably wealthy neighborhood in the last 20 years and we definitely are not incredibly wealthy. We always feel like outsiders strolling around amongst the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal (a regular at our local coffee shop), Susan Sarandon (runs the Flea Theater across the street from us), Lela Rose (fashion designer who lives next door) and Nicola Formichetti (Lady Gagaʼs stylist, who is our immediate neighbor in our building). Iʼm not name-dropping and the sort-of starstudded attraction of the place is probably its most annoying attribute. Tribeca is not always the friendliest of neighborhoods but it is amazingly quiet and so close to all public transportation (like good New Yorkers, we donʼt own a car) and the incredibly beautiful Hudson River Park. Unbelievably, we found our place on Craigslist about two weeks before we were supposed to move from San Francisco. There were no photos, just a brief written description and they were showing it for only one afternoon. We knew this was the place if we could only be lucky enough to get it and we were. I like to say that we have the last cool landlords in the ridiculously over-heated New York City real-estate market. We have, what I think, is not only a really beautiful space in a fantastic neighborhood but we donʼt pay an arm and a leg. The only drawback? Itʼs a fourth floor walk up with 80 stairs straight up!
Wow . . . that is a long walk up! Talk to us a bit about your approach to decorating and styling.
My approach has always been a wait-and-see approach if that makes any sense at all. Since graduating college Iʼve tried to be a collector of sorts. Not necessarily focusing on any specific thing but trying to get pieces that I would have for a lifetime. Iʼd always prefer to save and get something that I really, really love rather than pulling the trigger at the first thing that comes into my purview. That doesnʼt mean it has to be expensive, just something that resonates with me deeply. Iʼll wear my shoes forever, till they literally have holes in the soles and are ripping holes in my socks, because I refuse to buy ANYTHING unless it speaks to me. This is not because Iʼm cheap but because I am probably unhealthily attached to objects. So, in terms of décor in my home, thatʼs what you see―things that have been with me/us for a LONG time. Things that have a place in my heart one way or another.
How do you end up defining this style to others?
Perfect! How are your approaches similar or different to Heatherʼs and how do you two compromise when picking furniture and colors?
Heather is much more of a fashionista and a foodie. As the copy-director at Elle, she is surrounded by fashion every day, non-stop and perhaps more attuned to clothes, shoes, etc. She does a lot of food writing so she kind of owns that as well. But that bodes well for me and the apartment. She gives me a lot of leeway. That doesnʼt mean she doesnʼt have opinions because she most certainly does, but she will generally let me guide the process.
Youʼve woven bold, tricky colors throughout your home against a white palette and made them blend seamlessly . . . what attracts you to those colors?
There is a lot of orange and orange tints throughout the place and this is actually totally subconscious. I didnʼt realize I was so drawn to the color until I had to live in Des Moines, Iowa for a few years and when outfitting the apartment there I picked up almost ALL orange furniture. It was weird but I loved it. When I was a kid I loved yellow and as Iʼve gotten older perhaps that love has moved slightly to the right on the colorwheel. Maybe itʼs just the Californian in me.
You also blend era pieces together beautifully . . . we love the bright blue velvet Victorian chairs paired with Danish pieces, pops of modern, and french toile—whatʼs the trick to making this work?
You know, I think the trick is to follow your heart and not trends. Trends change drastically from year to year but your heart not so much. So, if I have a piece that I loved when I was 22 it will probably work with the piece I loved when I was 33
regardless of style. I guess it works because it is all a reflection of me and my tastes donʼt vary greatly. I think all styles (for the most part) speak to each other in one way or another so you can find things from JC Penney that work really well with things from Design Within Reach. Itʼs all about opening your mind and having a sincere interest in aesthetics.
Going from there, found objects and furniture really play a large role in your life. Howʼs that reflected in your space?
Heather gets a little frustrated with me because I will bring home stuff I find on the street all the time. It doesnʼt all get to stay but some of it does. The found objects that do get to stay usually have a more personal connection—like they were found in my parentsʼ garage, my sisterʼs basement, or a photo shoot I was on.
What are some interesting stories behind your furnishings and art?
I love the toile curtains because we made them ourselves. The idea was to create some separation of space since it is so open. That didnʼt work so well but we found it really creates just a great, simple visual pop. The hanging lamp in what we call the “smart room”—the room without the television—was my first big furnishing purchase. It was made by this amazing designer in San Francisco named Greg Benke. I used to run a performance space in San Francisco and we did a whole show of Gregʼs lighting work. It was really incredible, beautiful, strange stuff. This one is made out of old auto parts and marbles and just stuck with me. I bought it for $500 when I was 24. I had no idea what $500 was back then but Iʼm glad I figured out how to pull it together. My favorite piece of art is the letter I received from Ettore Sottsass, my all-time hero. I worked with him really closely for a while trying to put out a book of his writings. I still harbor hopes that someday that might see the light of day. Anyhow, he wrote me this great little note that basically says that he and one of my all time favorite photographers, Camilo Jose Vergara, were unable to connect, so he was heading to an island off the coast of Sicily for 75 days. Nice!
Very nice! Talk a bit about the rest of your art collection with us . . .
Wow. The art is us. Itʼs a lot collected over the years. Collectively our favorite piece is the photograph of the bass player from Seven Year Bitch taken at an outdoor show in San Francisco. We won it at an auction at Southern Exposure in San Francisco. We joke that if we ever get a divorce that would be the one thing weʼll do battle over. A lot of the painting was done by our friend, Luke Cavagnac, who works out of Easthampton, Massachusetts. There are also quite a few pieces by our family friend, ceramicist and painter Dodie Marchese who is based in Guilford, Connecticut. Obviously we are very into photography. We gift each other with art often. Itʼs a problem. We donʼt have the wall space.
What draws you to specific artists or pieces?
Often they are my friends or people Iʼve worked with. Again, personal connection of some sort. I like bold imagery that makes a statement straight away.
What do you hope guests take away from your space?
I hope they feel like they know us a bit after seeing it. I really do think it paints a pretty vivid picture of the type of people we are.