James Nestor -- Interior Design, 2/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Suzanne Greischel's heels click against the slabs of limestone that pour like spilled milk across the reception area at Montgomery & Co., a San Francisco investment bank. Her intention for this project was to "flood everything in light," she says, and her success can be seen in the way the mid-afternoon sun hangs low in the flat blue sky beyond the window wall, bathing floor, chairs, tables—everything—in a gossamer orange. This is how it looks from the top of the world.
"We're showing Montgomery on top of their industry, above the clouds," explains Greischel, a principal at BraytonHughes Design Studios. "To do that, we needed to make everything disappear."
The first thing that had to vanish was the 10 years' worth of refuse that had accrued on the 30th floor, which had been used as storage before being leased by Montgomery. Once cleared and combined with the 29th floor, for a total of 13,600 square feet, the space offered a tabula rasa of possibilities—and problems. "In commercial spaces, you rarely have to do anything structural. This was a real exception," Greischel says. Along with building a cantilevered structural support to minimize noise and vibrations from the mechanicals room on the roof, she had to design a staircase and insert a one-story elevator shaft.
On both floors, Greischel constructed a core of glassed-in rooms that allow light to filter unhindered from one side of the building to the other. Offices, glass-enclosed corporate aquariums, run along the north and south window walls. "Investment banking is all about transparency," she says.
Sun can also shine past the staircase, thanks to the limestone treads that ascend on a steel double stringer. The stair wraps the new elevator shaft, which is clad in blue glass sheets held in place by polished-steel bolts—looking less like an Americans With Disabilities Act–mandated necessity and more like a rocket headed straight for Xanadu.
The conference room, enclosed by paper-thin glass, is a compilation of design elements repeated throughout. "The key here is a minimal palette," Greischel says. "White, soft gray, blue—they're all colors that complement the light, not detract from it." While the opaque blue glass top of the conference table reflects the cityscape, white glass pendant fixtures mass overhead like clouds. The conference table's steel base and the aluminum door hardware are finished to a high polish and sparkle like bright white exclamation points.
Take a seat in the conference room, and a panoramic view of downtown appears on one side. On the other is the Bay Bridge. Below, sailboats skim across the rippling water. It's tantamount to being in the shutter of a fish-eye lens.