Tiger skins, animal skulls and antler furniture: the New York loft that makes the macabre look magnificent

A dramatic leopard skin rug in the living room of Pol Thesis' New York home. The wing back chairs are vintage American, reupholstered
A dramatic leopard skin rug in the living room of Pol Thesis' New York home. The wing back chairs are vintage American, reupholstered Credit: Mark C. O'Flaherty 

We’ve all seen movies in which the lift doors open and the passenger steps straight out into their lavish New York loft apartment with no front door or hallway  to pass through first. 'I always wanted that when I was growing up,’ says Pol Theis, the Luxembourg-born designer who is now based in Manhattan. For the last couple of years, the man behind P&T Interiors has had it, in all its expansive, industrial glory.

The living room features animal skins, antique German antler stools and a curious soft sculpture by Anne-Valérie Dupond  Credit: Mark C. O'Flaherty 

'This was an old paper conservatory,’ he explains. 'No one had ever lived in it before. It’s a classic 1920s art-deco building and I have the whole 10th floor. I restored the polished concrete flooring and replaced the windows to the original industrial design.’ 

For an interior designer to find a blank canvas in midtown Manhattan, with views to iconic skyscrapers and out across the Hudson river, is miraculous.  The Theis aesthetic is a refined kind of gothic, right down to the all-black deconstructed wardrobe of clothing he’s amassed from downtown fashion temple Hotoveli.

The kitchen was custom-designed by P&T Interiors. The bull’s head was originally a sign in an old French butcher’s. The appliances are by Gaggenau Credit: Mark C. O'Flaherty 

The terrace of  his Garment District loft is festooned with  gargoyles and the interior features a mix of macabre flea-market finds, industrial fixtures and self-consciously twee touches – 'the European grandmother style’, as he puts it – counterbalanced with a darker edge. There are skulls that have been turned into objets d’art, and the skeleton of a small goat stands in a glass case. 'I put a wig on it, so it’s unique,’ he says. 

Much of the furniture has been made by his own company P&T, including a side table with an immense metal chain on top, as if to suggest a monstrous bird perch. There are also one-off objects such as the dolls’ heads that have been turned into sculptures, and 19th-century chairs from the Black Forest in Germany, assembled from antlers. Pol Theis would top Bram Stoker’s list of interior designers. One gets the sense that Theis could easily move into fine art if he ever tired of creating lavish homes for clients in New York and Paris.

The dining table and chairs are by Chris Lehrecke, and the chandelier is by Lindsey Adelman  Credit: Mark O'Flaherty 

'What I’m looking for when I create these pieces is really just an installation and a unique piece for the space. If you want to call it art, be my guest.’ Before his New York City life, he was a corporate lawyer in Paris. 'I turned 33, and I was offered a partnership,’ he recalls. 'I kind of loved it, but I didn’t want to do that my whole life. I had always been interested in design, but in Paris, everything is much more categorised. You’re not supposed to change jobs, careers. In the US, it’s somehow expected of you.’

Pol Theis Credit: Mark C. O'Flaherty 

The thing that makes this loft so appealing is that it isn’t relentlessly or simplistically gothic. 'My work is actually quite minimalist,’ he says, 'but also eclectic. If you take all the furniture out of my apartment, what I’ve done is quite simple. I take most of my inspiration from Danish design of the 1950s. But I also like industrial pieces, and I like to mix styles.  I think overall it’s an international style, not fixed to one place.’ 

The office. The Bakelite telephone lamp is by London-based designer Alex Randall  Credit: Mark C. O'Flaherty 

Theis enjoys this space on his own with his super-sized bulldog, Miss Lucy, but it’s also a very social environment. The vast dining table is lit by a cluster of glass pendant lights arranged as if dredged up from a shipwreck. 'I like to have friends around for dinner,’ he says. 'It’s a mix of artists, painters and sculptors, as well as lawyers and investment bankers, because they still make up a lot of my social circle. I like to cook, or we will have a barbecue on the terrace.’

The bathroom features black-and-white tiling, made in Fez, Morocco, and custom sinks, made of Corian  Credit: Mark C. O'Flaherty 

When he was designing his kitchen, with floor-to-ceiling black metro tiles, he reinterpreted the black doors with gold lettering inspired by the façade of his favourite restaurant in Paris, Chez l’Ami Louis.

'I never go to the city without having lunch there,’ he says. 'It’s so tiny, and only has about 10 tables, and it’s been there for over 100 years. Everything is cooked from a fire oven, and it’s very traditional.’ When he thought about creating his homage to the restaurant, he called the owner, Louis, to ask permission. 'He said  I should do it,’ he recalls, 'but that he had to then come and cook for me here in New York. It was a win-win situation.’