Switching careers is never easy, and success in a new field is certainly not guaranteed. However, do not tell that to Andrew Torrey. Thanks to his talent, the New York-based interior designer, who launched his firm, BA Torrey, has been inundated with work seven years ago. His projects have been the kind of high-style, high-profile commissions usually reserved for seasoned blue-chip specialists. An invitation from decorator Jamie Drake to conceive a room for the celebrated Kips Bay Decorator Show House arrived just five years after Torrey established his studio. Last year, he debuted his first product line, a collection of striking Art Deco-inspired rugs.
Interior design “was a business that was right in front of me,” Torrey says, explaining his change of field. One of the most important things he learned from his previous career was how personal a home is for its owners. That realization helps him keep his ego out of his design projects.
Developing modern concepts for luxurious contemporary living comes naturally to the Kansas-born Torrey, who attributes the creative atmosphere of his parents’ landscape and nursery business with sparking his passion for design.
Today, he crafts residences with a clean, incredible allure. Call it minimalism with a twist. “Projects with really indifferent clients are the least interesting to me. I want to help them create a home in which they raise their children, make memories and love every item.”
Torrey has just put the finishing touches on the renovation of a London residence and a new-build vacation home in Baja California’s Cabo San Lucas. He is currently conceiving interiors for a Montana retreat, two Los Angeles properties, a home in Denver, and a New York apartment.
One recent commission close to home was the down-to-the-studs transformation of a two-bedroom apartment on Crosby Street in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood into a grand one-bedroom lair for a client who works in fashion. She requested that it be dog-proof. To accomplish that without sacrificing style, Torrey paved the floors in ceramic tiles that looked like wood planks. In the living room, he accompanied a shiny floating Paul Evans console with a burl-wood cocktail table whose already-bitten look can be touched up if chewed on further by the pets.
He enclosed the bathroom shower in frosted glass to function as a powder room, and the owner could entertain guests and not have to worry about the shower. He also installed a full bar in the massive dressing area because the owner wanted it to always feel like fun in her closet.
Working on a low-slung mid-20th-century house in Los Angeles’s Trousdale Estates, Torrey sought to retain its swank vibe while updating it. “They love pops of bold color and strong lines in the furniture and wanted a contemporary version of a true Trousdale-style home,” he explains.
The designer sourced the perfect furniture pieces, including shapely brass table lamps in the master bedroom that he paired with a custom-designed headboard upholstered in that 1970s mainstay, Ultrasuede. “It makes it very easy to be an international designer. I can shop the galleries in Paris, Italy, and Berlin. It enables me to pull in the best antiques and vintage pieces without actually getting on a plane.”
Striking circle-patterned, lacquered-steel screens frame the spacious living area, which holds mid-century Arflex armchairs and a curved Gallotti & Radice sofa covered in a radiant green velvet. The dining room, cast in moody black and red, features Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs surrounding a dynamic pedestal table. Torrey installed accent lights all over, illuminating everything from the pool and garden to floating shelves and room dividers.
The same couple had Torrey do their Manhattan Pied-à-Terre in the Art Deco Walker Tower. Here, the challenge was to transform a sharp but plain white box into a welcoming nest. He designed a plush velvet-covered sofa for the living room that he parked underneath a stunning photograph of Kate Moss by Arthur Elgort. “Everything you sit on is so comfortable you do not want to get out of it,” says Torrey. “When the owners get home after a long flight, they feel instantly at home.”
Torrey’s residence, a one-bedroom apartment in a clean-lined building in Chelsea, avoids the less-is-more approach he takes with most of his clients. In the living room, the 1960s black leather swivel chairs face a salon-style wall of mixed-media pieces. His bedroom is kitted out with a Baughman nightstand and dresser from High Style Deco. A pair of charming paintings of prized quarter horses, treasures from his grandparents’ Kansas ranch, brighten a hallway.
“I was nervous about taking on something I loved so much and turning it into a career,” he thinks about his decision to go all-in with interior design. The talented Mr. Torrey has nothing to worry about. It may have taken him a few years and extra steps to discover his career, but far from dulling his passion, creating interiors professionally has made design even more of an obsession — in the best way possible.
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