This Serene Chelsea Refuge Is a Creative Hideout

Tom Morris
·6 min read

“My interiors are simple in terms of color, and my ceramics are completely monochromatic too,” explains Argentinian-born architect and interior designer turned ceramicist Carlos Otero. “Architecture taught me how to design, and I apply those principles to ceramics. I like to create graphic, simple shapes that have impact.”

The same could be said of the muted two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-story apartment he calls home in the heart of New York City's Chelsea neighborhood. Decorated almost exclusively in a warm, earthy shade of ecru, the space relies upon interesting shapes, textures and—of course—ceramics to add interest. Otero has lived in the property since the early 2000s.

It was during a sabbatical move to Hong Kong in 2010 that Otero began his shift into ceramics. He passed a small pottery studio on a six-floor walk-up in the city one day and thought it was time to try something new. “There was a little lady there who taught the classes, and I immediately loved it,” he recalls. “She was super strict and would yell at you if you got it wrong, but it was great training.”

This large space, painted in Benjamin Moore Ashen Tan, was immediately transformed into Otero's home office for the interior design studio and is retained as a place to draw, sketch, and prepare his ceramic works. The pendant light is made up of dried poppy flowers and was purchased when he lived in Hong Kong. The 1950s rosewood chairs were reupholstered in red-orange linen from Gaston y Daniela at Kravet.
This large space, painted in Benjamin Moore Ashen Tan, was immediately transformed into Otero's home office for the interior design studio and is retained as a place to draw, sketch, and prepare his ceramic works. The pendant light is made up of dried poppy flowers and was purchased when he lived in Hong Kong. The 1950s rosewood chairs were reupholstered in red-orange linen from Gaston y Daniela at Kravet.

When he moved back to New York, some colleagues began asking him to make things—the odd lamp, a mirror—and “then it all started,” as he says. Today, Otero, whose solo show at NYC's Hostler Burrows gallery is on view now through the month of November, works out of a studio in Long Island. What led him to make the switch? “I got burnt dealing with people, basically,” he says. “In interiors, you have to be on top of so many people all the time. After almost 15 years of being in my office until 11 p.m. every day, I just thought, I didn't want to do this anymore.”

Using an alternate part of his brain for this particular creative outlet was also a key factor in the switch. “I found ceramics was completely different to interior design; it was just me, some clay, and all my imagination. I could control everything—or so I thought until I started doing all the glazing and firing—and I loved going back to something very personal. Just me and the piece.”

While ceramics is the main focus today, creating beautiful 3D environments with craft at is core is still a joy of Otero’s, to which his home attests. “I still have my interior design side of course,” he says. “So when I make a ceramic piece, I am always thinking where it could go, how the light will hit on it, and so on. It's a full circle.”

This Serene Chelsea Refuge Is a Creative Hideout

With his apartment's high ceilings and relatively large rooms in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood, Argentinian-born architect and interior designer turned ceramist Carlos Otero describes it as “perfect to entertain in.” The vintage Danish rosewood table is designed by Niels Moller, as are the teak dining chairs, which are covered in a blue velvet from Schumacher. When you buy something through a retail link on Architectural Digest, we may earn an affiliate commission.
With his apartment's high ceilings and relatively large rooms in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood, Argentinian-born architect and interior designer turned ceramist Carlos Otero describes it as “perfect to entertain in.” The vintage Danish rosewood table is designed by Niels Moller, as are the teak dining chairs, which are covered in a blue velvet from Schumacher. When you buy something through a retail link on Architectural Digest, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Beside a mantel in a corner of the dining room is a vintage Scandinavian lounge chair with a teak frame, upholstered in teal blue cashmere velvet from Pierre Frey.
Beside a mantel in a corner of the dining room is a vintage Scandinavian lounge chair with a teak frame, upholstered in teal blue cashmere velvet from Pierre Frey.
A view through French doors of the apartment's kitchen, whose cabinets are custom designed in walnut. Otero's contractor was from Simply Elegant.
A view through French doors of the apartment's kitchen, whose cabinets are custom designed in walnut. Otero's contractor was from Simply Elegant.
When Otero first saw the apartment, it had very low ceilings, so he opened everything and made the cabinets in the kitchen go all the way up, giving an element of drama plus handy added storage. The countertops are made of Corian; the brass pulls are from Wainlands; the cooktop and oven are from Gaggenau; and the faucet is from Blanco.
When Otero first saw the apartment, it had very low ceilings, so he opened everything and made the cabinets in the kitchen go all the way up, giving an element of drama plus handy added storage. The countertops are made of Corian; the brass pulls are from Wainlands; the cooktop and oven are from Gaggenau; and the faucet is from Blanco.
The painting in the living room is by Argentinean Brooklyn-based artist Alejandra Sever. The central sofa was custom designed and wears a cashmere velvet from Great Plains at Holly Hunt. Otero is a stickler for proportion and decided to maximize the size to fit the space. He also designed the floor lamps in dark steel with a special patina. The vintage Italian lounge chair with brass legs was reupholstered in a gray-blue suede by Edelman.
The painting in the living room is by Argentinean Brooklyn-based artist Alejandra Sever. The central sofa was custom designed and wears a cashmere velvet from Great Plains at Holly Hunt. Otero is a stickler for proportion and decided to maximize the size to fit the space. He also designed the floor lamps in dark steel with a special patina. The vintage Italian lounge chair with brass legs was reupholstered in a gray-blue suede by Edelman.
This large space, painted in Benjamin Moore Ashen Tan, was immediately transformed into Otero's his home office for the interior design studio and is retained as a place to draw, sketch, and prepare his ceramic works. The pendant light is made up of dried poppy flowers and purchased when he lived in Hong Kong.
This large space, painted in Benjamin Moore Ashen Tan, was immediately transformed into Otero's his home office for the interior design studio and is retained as a place to draw, sketch, and prepare his ceramic works. The pendant light is made up of dried poppy flowers and purchased when he lived in Hong Kong.
The picture light above the bookcase is a Thomas O'Brien David in brass by Visual Comfort. The study's 1950s rosewood chairs were reupholstered in red-orange linen from Gaston y Daniela at Kravet.
The picture light above the bookcase is a Thomas O'Brien David in brass by Visual Comfort. The study's 1950s rosewood chairs were reupholstered in red-orange linen from Gaston y Daniela at Kravet.
On the main bathroom, the Corian sink features a faucet from Lefroy Brooks. The floors are Imperial Danby marble from ABC Stone.
On the main bathroom, the Corian sink features a faucet from Lefroy Brooks. The floors are Imperial Danby marble from ABC Stone.
Drawings of some of Otero's early ceramic pieces hang above the master bed. While Otero added some historical splendor in the reception rooms—including moldings and architraves—he decided to keep bathrooms, kitchen, and his main bedroom more sleek and minimal. "I like an overall clean tone with consistency through spaces," he says. The rug is from Beauvais; the curtains are from Schumacher; the bedside pendant lamps are custom. The room's walls are painted in Benjamin Moore China White, while the saffron yellow coverlet is from Area Home.
Drawings of some of Otero's early ceramic pieces hang above the master bed. While Otero added some historical splendor in the reception rooms—including moldings and architraves—he decided to keep bathrooms, kitchen, and his main bedroom more sleek and minimal. "I like an overall clean tone with consistency through spaces," he says. The rug is from Beauvais; the curtains are from Schumacher; the bedside pendant lamps are custom. The room's walls are painted in Benjamin Moore China White, while the saffron yellow coverlet is from Area Home.
A large walk-in closet features storage and a washer-dryer plus a custom-designed cast-metal ladder that leads up to the small guest bedroom upstairs. The poster of Argentinean soccer icon Maradona was salvaged from the street in New York.
A large walk-in closet features storage and a washer-dryer plus a custom-designed cast-metal ladder that leads up to the small guest bedroom upstairs. The poster of Argentinean soccer icon Maradona was salvaged from the street in New York.
A former storage area was opened up during renovation, and Otero decided to make it a cozy guest bedroom that is comfortable for people—or a beloved cat—to stay for a couple of nights.
A former storage area was opened up during renovation, and Otero decided to make it a cozy guest bedroom that is comfortable for people—or a beloved cat—to stay for a couple of nights.
Of his south-facing sun-drenched balcony, Otero says, “It's pretty much my favorite place in my apartment! It really is an oasis—very calm.” He designed the deck and side wall panels in mahogany. One of his pieces hangs on a side panel.
Of his south-facing sun-drenched balcony, Otero says, “It's pretty much my favorite place in my apartment! It really is an oasis—very calm.” He designed the deck and side wall panels in mahogany. One of his pieces hangs on a side panel.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest