MINIMAL TO THE MAX
BY: Jill Sieracki
Photography: Simon Upton | Marc Heldens
In New York, it’s always a story about how you acquired what you acquire,” says architect David Mann. He’s referring to his Village studio, but the same can be said about many parts of Mann’s life. Like his partner of 25 years, Fritz Karch—the yin to Mann’s austere yang—who has made a career of being a guru of collections. Or Mann’s 4,400–square–foot home on 18 acres in Hudson, New York, that had been a colorful local landmark before the architect took ownership and converted the interior with a softer palette.
The studio came into Mann’s life in the 1980s through a client. “By the time I got in, it was definitely a period piece,” jokes the architect, who gave the space a modern refresh with white walls and ebonized black wood floors. “Thirty-five years living in one room, the most luxurious thing you can do is to have a few things that don’t have any function, that you just simply like,” he says of the space’s redesign. “That is the thing that makes the space feel like your own.”
Karch too entered Mann’s orbit by way of someone else—just not how you would think. The architect came solo to a blind date with a man who had invited an entourage that serendipitously included Karch. “He really is a hunter and gatherer,” Mann says of his partner, Martha Stewart’s former editorial director of collecting. “What was fascinating to me in the beginning to learn about him was that he really feels like he’s saving these things. He likes to find them in junkyards or thrown away and he likes to rediscover them and maybe use them in ways that were never thought of before. And I find that quest very admirable.”
Most of Karch’s gatherings are reserved for his weekend house in Princeton, where he runs Fritz’s American Wonder and an Etsy site called Collected + Co. while Mann’s weekend home in Hudson is reflective of his minimalist style. “I like everything [Fritz] likes, it’s more about editing quantity,” says Mann, who early in their relationship had a dream that the couple would share a home with a glass wall down the center—half, Karch could fill with his trappings; Mann’s side would be “just one chair.”
While it does have slightly more than just one chair, Mann’s house upstate “was livable but in kind of dilapidated shape” when the architect bought it. “The approach the previous owners took was lots of color. I loved the actual house but I couldn’t really live with the colors.” Mann painted the whole interior white so he could “better understand” its bones. Years later, it’s still an unending work in progress—an idea Mann is exploring in his first book, MR Architecture + Décor, timed to his firm’s 20th anniversary. “Being a person that creates homes for people I see my own home as a laboratory and an experiment,” says Mann. “The one moment that I always vainly look for is the photo shoot, so once you get to that point, you’ve come to the first stop, but then it evolves on from there. [You see] what was important and what was valuable at that moment and then you go on.”