text by Soft–Space; Photos by Dan McMahon

November 16, 2018

Michael Bargo Connects Work And Life In His Chinatown Loft

The boundaries of work and life flow seamlessly in the home of the interior designer Michael Bargo, who recently moved into a sprawling Chinatown loft where he’s officially combined his studio with his living space.

Bargo says he has plans to erect a wall separating the front room from the kitchen and bedroom, which are tucked away in the back corner of the apartment, further formalizing the separation between work and life. As it is, however, the space allows for symbiotic inspiration. The centerpiece of Bargo’s gallery when we visited this fall was a bed frame gifted to him by a friend, who’d received it from his grandparents in Brazil. The piece signified a unifying theme of his home: Life imitates art and vice versa. We caught up with Bargo to learn more about how he finds happiness and comfort in his home and in his work.

How do you balance a space where you live and work?

Michael Bargo: For me, I’m such a homebody that I like to live and work in the same space. It’s really comforting for me. I also like to bring people into my home, I think it’s good for my clients to see. In terms of it being restorative, I think it’s a really calm space for me. I definitely find a certain solace and peacefulness here.

How do you organize everything?

Michael Bargo: It’s just responding to the physical space. Since the space is live/work, I find comfort being surrounded in beauty. So being surrounded by these objects makes me really happy.

How do you know you’ve found the right piece?

Michael Bargo: It’s really kind of a gut reaction. I compare it a lot to the way physical attraction to another person works. It’s an emotional reaction. You can’t really quantify it. Lots of times it’s sensory, too. For example, the cowhide that’s on a lot of things here, I have a kind of tactile relationship to.

What kinds of feelings do you look for?

Michael Bargo: Definitely serenity, and calm. I think happiness, too—although I guess everything might not look super happy in here. These things make me super happy, though. It’s less that they are necessarily “happy” objects or peaceful objects. As a matter of fact, plenty of them are quite severe. But there’s something about them that brings me those feelings.

What’s an early sensory memory that sticks out for you?

Michael Bargo: Smell is one of my earliest memories. My parents were redecorating their bathroom and they hired an interior designer who was going through all of these different wallpapers, and I remember that scent of glue and associating it with the idea that ‘oh this is something I could do.’ I was like 6 or 7 years old but I still remember that smell now, and it takes me back to that original feeling.

Dan McMahon is a photographer working in New York.