French Chic in SoHo

Carlos Aparicio's BAC

I absolutely love this period—such sophistication!" says architect and designer Carlos Aparicio as he surveys the array of '30s and '40s French furnishings at BAC, his new shop in New York. "Everything you see here"—including the shop itself, a soaring space of crisp and calming elegance that he designed—"demonstrates my sensibilities. It is a completely personal collection."

Given his dual background, it is understandable that Aparicio would revere this period: While the furniture has an architectural rigor and spareness to it, it is also sumptuous in its materials. But he is by no means alone in his appreciation; the past decade has seen an explosion of interest in early- to mid-20th-century decorative arts. "Though modernity, the Bauhaus and such, was in the air," he says, "the French designers of the period were still inspired by classicism. I love the purity of line, its economical version of classicism, which is one of my sources of inspiration as well."

Other sources have been the masters with whom he has trained. Rodolfo Machado and partner Jorge Silvetti (whose Boston firm is transforming the old Getty museum) were mentors at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, respectively. Aparicio met Rafael Moneo at Harvard and later worked with the architect in Spain. "From this great talent," says Aparicio, "I learned to fight aesthetic affectations, to seek design that transcends fashion."

In 1996, after a few years with New York designer Juan Pablo Molyneux, Aparicio opened his own firm, where he is able to combine his skills as architect, designer, and lifelong connoisseur of fine furnishings: "I see architecture and design as a totality, not separate entities; the process as simultaneous, not linear. And the furniture is just as important as the architecture." In addition to 20 or so apartments, his projects have included the historic renovation of a 16th-century house in San Juan, and collaborating in the very chic redo of Montreal's Hotel St. Paul.

"Carlos has impeccable taste," says Michael J. Wolf, a media and entertainment consultant whose 4,000-square-foot Fifth Avenue apartment the Cuban-born architect is designing—their second project together. "He combines the aesthetics of the thirties and forties with some of the best elements of contemporary design to create environments that are peaceful yet, at the same time, partly through the beauty of the pieces he finds or creates, visually exciting."

Years of regular visits to private dealers in Paris, the South of France, Sweden, and elsewhere have stocked BAC with a trove of superb pieces, among them works by some of the most coveted names in mid-20th-century French design: René Prou, Jean-Michel Frank, Jacques Adnet, Marc du Plantier, Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, André Sornay. While Aparicio's design clients may get first pick (one recently claimed a Jean Royère console and coffee table in gilded wrought iron and marble), some high-profile designers have managed to snag a few treasures: Sills Huniford Associates found a table lamp by Maurice Laffaille; Barbara Barry, a Baguès chandelier; Naomi Leff, a 1940s lamp by Jansen. An especially satisfying discovery was an André Arbus guéridon in dark-stained wood; in restoring it, says Aparicio, "we found the most beautiful blond sycamore."

BAC, 16 Crosby St., New York; 212-431-6151. Prices range from $3,000 for an Arbus footstool to $25,000 for a Portneuve table.