Stephen Treffinger -- Interior Design, 9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
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firm: Jeffrey Beers International
site: New York
Workplace kitchens can be sad affairs: claustrophobic, hidden rooms with a mini fridge, a sauce-splattered microwave, and pots of burned coffee, all bathed in unflattering fluorescent light. At Jeffrey Beers International in New York, the scene is much more convivial. The "hub," as architect Jeffrey Beers calls it, is based largely on the kitchen at his family's own apartment. Both are large, inviting, sun-drenched spaces in which people can chat, enjoy a meal, and, yes, work.
Hospitality seems to be in Beers's DNA. "I've designed 100-and-some restaurants, so I've learned a few things about putting a kitchen together," he says. Think Japonais in Chicago and New York, Tabu in Las Vegas, and the upcoming Atlantis, the Palm, in Dubayy, United Arab Emirates. "A lot of my friends are chefs as well," he adds. For the office kitchen, he informally consulted Daniel Boulud and Todd English—in the process of designing their Las Vegas restaurants DB Brasserie and Olives.
"Socializing in the kitchen is a big part of life for me and my family," Beers continues. For his "extended family," i.e. his staff, he devised a kitchen that's conveniently located and efficient. One side opens to the office's main thoroughfare and, directly across, a conference room—long meetings often spill over.
"People passing by the kitchen are encouraged to stop in," he says. When they do, they often gather around a generous square central island that's served by bar stools, so it's just as easy to sit as stand. Surrounding it on three sides, function areas are clearly delineated: prep, cooking, pantry. Offering further encouragement to make a visit are the full-size stainless appliances, not only a refrigerator and a microwave, of course, but also a cooktop, a gas oven, and a wine cooler.
A lively tomato-red backsplash stands out in contrast to the white-as-rice lacquered cabinetry and shiny black granite counters. Beers is known, after all, for his affinity for fiery tones. More color comes from examples of his own glasswork. A few vessels are artfully arranged on the island, while the majority of the pieces are displayed right outside, tucked in the ebony-stained oak bookcases running the length of the corridor that passes the kitchen entry.
Beers's glassblowing "hobby," as he modestly calls it, began when he was an undergraduate at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he met Dale Chihuly and was instantly enamored. "Blowing glass informs my sense of color and form. It's a wonderful contrast to architecture, which can be very rigid," Beers says.
He spent countless hours at RISD's library, too, devouring works on art and music in addition to architecture texts. There's already a similarly wide range of titles housed in the long bookcases in the corridor by the kitchen, and he hopes to keep expanding the collection. Staff members are encouraged to bring in their own books for informal lending.
In an office filled with personal touches, the open studio has an energetic vibe. "The light is great, and we added ceiling beams to give a kind of artist's-loft feel," Beers says. "It's not another commercial office space." The main conference room, however, is relatively staid. Chairs by Charles and Ray Eames surround a table topped in monolithic slabs of Calacatta marble, and a subdued sand-toned linen covers the pinup walls.
Besides those spontaneous spillover gatherings from the conference room, the kitchen is used for planned events. Staff congregated there for cocktails and snacks every Thursday night this past summer, for instance. Future plans include guest chefs—Boulud maybe?
FROM FRONT SMC STONE: CUSTOM COUNTER (KITCHEN), CUSTOM TABLETOP (CONFERENCE ROOM). FISHER & PAYKEL APPLIANCES: REFRIGERATOR, COOKTOP, OVEN, DISHWASHER (KITCHEN). BOSCH: HOOD. FRANKE: SINK FITTINGS. GLASS CRAFTERS: CUSTOM BACKSPLASH. DESIGNTEX: WALL COVERING (CONFERENCE ROOM). BENTLEY PRINCE STREET: CARPET. HERMAN MILLER: TASK CHAIRS (CONFERENCE ROOM, STUDIO). MIELE: COFFEE SYSTEM (KITCHEN). SHARP ELECTRONICS CORP.: MICROWAVE. MARVEL: WINE COOLER. PEGASUS GROUP: STOOLS (KITCHEN), SIDE CHAIR (STUDIO). MASON CONTRACT PRODUCTS: CUSTOM WINDOW SHADES (STUDIO). THROUGHOUT COOPER LIGHTING: RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES. BENJAMIN MOORE & CO.: PAINT. ARCLIGHT DESIGN: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. KENSENG CORP.: WOODWORK. WONDER WORKS CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.