Keeping Up the Good Work
Expanding the New York office of Paul Wilmot Communications, Thom Filicia continued where Jeffrey Bilhuber left off
Elizabeth Hayt -- Interior Design, 10/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Paul Wilmot was no neophyte when he founded his eponymous public-relations firm in 1997. One of his first moves was to enlist Jeffrey Bilhuber—who had decorated Wilmot's residences in Manhattan, Miami, and Rhode Island—to design a New York office. Bilhuber completed the job in style, gutting a 1980s music-video studio to create an interior that looked both professional and relaxed. "To get editors in here, making the environment welcoming is good business," says Wilmot, who handles such labels as Diesel and Abercrombie & Fitch.
By 2001, Wilmot and his stiletto-shod employees had already outgrown their 4,600 square feet, and Wilmot decided to add a second floor of equal dimensions. Thom Filicia, Bilhuber's project manager on Wilmot phase one before going solo, took over. Phase two's objective was to maintain continuity but fulfill the demands of an expanding company—it's grown from 22 to 32 in the past year.
While Bilhuber had installed corrugated fiberglass panels as translucent partitions between partners' offices downstairs, he used ivory cotton curtains to define other areas. Filicia picked up on this device. Suspended from stainless-steel cables 8 feet above the floor, the curtains serve a triple function. They create privacy, allow natural light to pass through, and leave the ceiling—with its exposed beams, electrical cables, and sprinkler systems—free of additional clutter.
For furniture, Filicia benefited from Wilmot's raid on a Chase Manhattan warehouse when the bank was selling off Knoll desks, credenzas, and end tables. Hans Wegner chairs, more bank loot, were a mere $75 apiece. To give them "bling-bling," Wilmot says, Filicia had them covered in white patent leather. Another bargain was the Chinese paper lanterns ($50 in Chinatown). The giant orbs hang from the ceiling in a grid pattern that defines the volume and imparts drama.
The hub of the original office is a centrally located kitchen. Here, employees gather around two massive marble-topped Knoll tables strewn with magazines and newspapers. "In most homes, the informal gathering spot is the kitchen," says Filicia. "As businesses have become more casual, the office has become more homelike."
The top floor, however, required a different kind of gathering facility: a conference room. Rather than setting it off with curtains, Filicia created a transparent glass box that would allow Wilmot to hold private meetings and still feel part of the action. Inside the room, the designer borrowed a motif from the kitchen downstairs. He painted a large rectangular portion of the wall in ice blue as a backdrop for an Ansel Adams landscape. (Wilmot's collection of black-and-white photographs includes images by Imogen Cunningham and Harry Callahan.) "I've always dreamed of having a glass conference room," Wilmot says. "And a Bentley." Unfortunately, Filicia can't help with that one.