Designer Swept Off His Feet by New York's Checkered Past

New York Times, December 6, 2011

NEW YORK — At Mish Tworkowski’s salon, called Mish New York, formerly on the Upper East Side and now at 30 Bond St., in the heart of Manhattan’s NoHo district, it is difficult to determine if the designer’s jewelry is the main attraction or the opulent sideshow to Mr. Tworkowski’s painstakingly wrought retailing vision.

The likely answer is both.

Under the guidance of the architect Joseph Singer and the interior designer Ina Lindemann of London, Mr. Tworkowski has created a showroom of Art Deco-inspired elegance, where every detail — like the peridot-green piping on a vintage sofa — reflects his singular understanding of what makes for a rarefied sanctuary.

“In our old salon, we had to retrofit ourselves to fit the space,” Mr. Tworkowski said. “Here, we were able to say, How would our clients like to experience us?”

The reception room offers the first hint of Mr. Tworkowski’s sophisticated yet disarming style. Dramatic wall murals hand-painted by the Mark Uriu firm resemble petrified wood. They are offset by an antique settee upholstered in lavender suede and magnified by a white cast resin mirror whose scalloped edges bring to mind a giant clam shell.

A set of double doors leads next to a blue room, where light-blue suede upholstered walls, a vintage French desk covered by an Edelman Leather top in chalcedony blue and straight-backed painted chairs lend the space a formal yet inviting ambience.

“The next room is much more familiar,” Mr. Tworkowski said, referring to a third gallery, distinguished by its orange leather-topped dining table and a Nancy Lorenz triptych. “We have very close relationships with so many clients. We really felt the orange room was essential.”

Mr. Tworkowski lives only a few blocks uptown from the new location, but he has spent the bulk of his professional life on the Upper East Side, first at Sotheby’s, where he specialized in 20th-century art and antiques, and next on East 70th Street, where he operated a bespoke jewelry boutique catering to society women with a penchant for one-of-a-kind jewels drawn from his love of gardens and exotic travel.

Three years ago, Mr. Tworkowski and Mr. Singer, his partner and longtime collaborator, decided they needed a change of scenery.

“We started looking even before the recession, and stopped looking for a time, when no one thought there’d be a shopper left on the planet,” Mr. Tworkowski said.

After renewing the search this year, Mr. Tworkowski took his dog for a stroll down Bond Street and spied a “for sale” sign in the window of the ground-floor unit at No.30. The space, formerly the home of a literary agency, was “a warren of little rooms,” he said. “There was nothing chic about it.”

One of the benefits of being a jeweler is being able to recognize a gem in the rough. The space had high ceilings, enormous windows facing the street and three rooms connected to a studio in back. It did not take long for Mr. Tworkowski to fall in love with the place — and the colorful thoroughfare on which it stood.

The designer’s new Honeywood collection of gold pieces studded with brown and white diamonds in patterns mimic the petrified wood striations that decorate his walls, while the new Bond Bow collection of high-polish gold edged with diamonds illustrate how Mr. Tworkowski’s refined aesthetic plays out in miniature.

Bond Street stretches just two blocks from Broadway to the run-down Bowery, but it has had a long, checkered history. Paved with cobblestones that evoke its 19th-century heyday as a raucous entertainment hub, the street went to seed along with the rest of the neighborhood before emerging this past decade as the unofficial epicenter of a new Gilded Age.

The $12 million luxury condos at Ian Schrager’s swank 40 Bond location are one indication.

“The area was completely rundown, with winos and everything else that went along with it,” said Glenn Schiller, senior vice president at Corcoran, a real estate company in New York. “Now, Bond Street is one of the most expensive streets in all of downtown.”

If a neighborhood can serve as a muse, then Mr. Tworkowski has found his in Bond Street.

“The creative energy here is fantastic,” he said. “I love the juxtaposition. I describe it as bike messenger chic meets Russian oligarch. It’s so New York.”