High Above the City

Trends Magazine, November 2010

New York loft apartments provide some of the city's most sought-after real estate, and it's easy to see why. With large, factory-style steel windows and spacious interiors, lofts have loads of character and charm. This new Tribeca apartment, owned by James M Johnson and Paul Hokemeyer and designed by Gary Lee of Gary Lee Partners, is one of the first to be built in a landmark building that was originally an industrial manufacturing plant.

"Architecturally, the building was amazing, but there were plenty of construction challenges in creating the apartment," Lee says. One of the problems that was overcome early in the planning stage concerned the height of the windows. To ensure the view could be enjoyed while sitting down, Lee created a raised platform – the floor is two steps up from the entry lobby. This not only made the view more accessible, but also provided space for all the mechanical services. With the living spaces positioned around the perimeter of the building, Lee designed a central core for the service rooms, including the kitchen and bathrooms.

"Clad entirely in gray oak paneling, the core appears as a box-like insertion into the loft space," says Lee. "The idea of a wooden box is reinforced by gray oak ceilings in the kitchen and hallway to the master suite – the kitchen looks as if it is carved out from the box. The lowered ceilings also give the enclosed spaces an intimacy and make them feel more dramatic."

The effect is heightened by the apparent 10in thickness of the walls between the rooms.

"This detailing appears wherever the box is penetrated," says Lee. "It provides a real sense of substance and solidity."

In contrast, the rest of the spacious interior is light-filled, but reflects a similar color choice. "The controlled palette helps ensure that the spaces all relate to each other, rather than appear as separate rooms surrounding a monochromatic box," says the designer. "For this reason, also, the polished walnut flooring is consistent through all the living areas, two home offices and the master bedroom."

Because the owners are avid collectors of art, especially bronze sculpture, the interior is designed to provide a refined, subtle backdrop to their collection. Many of the furniture pieces have an appropriate sculptural quality.

"The owners like to reposition the art, so this is not a static interior, but rather a space that keeps changing," says Lee. "Extra-large sliding doors also transform the space, depending on whether the kitchen or one of the home offices is open. When closed, these doors are flush with the oak paneling, returning the box back to its original square form."

Suspended ceilings help define the different areas within the large living space. These linen-wrapped ceiling panels also improve the acoustics of the room, absorbing sound that would otherwise bounce off the hard surfaces.

Soft furnishings, including custom sofas and large area rugs, provide further acoustic relief.

The master suite, at the end of a passage alongside the central core, continues the soft gray palette. The bathroom features silver travertine slabs, and has full-height mirrored walls around three sides of the vanity. Like the kitchen, this internal space incorporates cove lighting strips that impart the look and feel of natural light.

Article by Coleen Hawkes © Trends Publishing International.
Photography by Nathan Kirkman © Nathan Kirkman Photography.

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