Paula Rackow -- Interior Design, 9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
When black-and-white photos of standpipes and street signage greet you on the fourth floor of this 1880 cast-iron building, you know that these particular SoHo dwellers embrace the gritty side of Gotham. Let others mock the landmarked district of former warehouses and factories as a luxury-shopping theme park. This architecturally savvy couple revel in the block after block of columned industrial palaces, still the most glorious commercial cityscape in New York. So it was with a spirit of stewardship and sense of history that the firm of S.Russell Groves embarked on a renovation of the 2,625-square-foot floor-through.
Groves says he "reached back to the industrial feeling of the building" while trying to satisfy the residential quest of all New Yorkers: more space, more closets. The couple challenged him to conjure up enough of both so that they and their children wouldn't have to leave their beloved neighborhood. But he had to do it without sacrificing the openness that makes a loft, well, a loft.
The den, a playroom-cum-study, is backed by a wall of steel-framed factory windows and divided from the living area's more formal entertaining space by nothing more than a freestanding louvered architectural detail from a 1940's commercial building. Together, the two marvels of metalwork seem to engage in a conversation.
The sidewall shared by the den and living area hides an enviable amount of storage. In the den, closets are reached by sliding back four massive cerused-oak doors equipped with rolling hardware more common to rural barns than urban apartments. (Even small children can open the 800-pound sliders easily to grab playthings and art supplies.) In the living area, an expanse of off-white lacquered rectangles looks like paneling but is actually composed of touch-latch doors. The 2-foot-deep space behind holds an entertainment center, CDs, and books. "It's what we call a smart wall," Groves says. "You wouldn't know that it's storage. It just looks like beautiful millwork."
An L-shape peninsula in the kitchen creates a place for seating as well as for an under-counter wine refrigerator that holds 220 bottles. The blackened-steel frame of the wine storage picks up the industrial theme, as do the three factory lights hanging above. Both the kitchen and master bathroom feature white subway tiles. Blackened-steel radiator covers and exposed ductwork and sprinklers appear intermittently.
Complementing this mad-for-machine-made aesthetic is a mix of vintage and custom furniture in a soft, earthy palette dominated by warm gray and what Groves calls "Weimaraner brown," a sly reference to the three William Wegman photographs in the hallway. In fact, most of the couple's art collection is given over to photography. One of the first things you see is the Chuck Close portrait in the entry. Even the master bedroom's landscape painting has photographic underpinnings: It's based on a Polaroid snapshot.
Along with the warm cast of colors, luxurious touches keep coldness at bay: leather upholstery, suede-covered pillows, linen sheers hanging from an oil-rubbed bronze rod, a shagreen box, a desk lamp with a horn base. Still, Groves heeded the clients' request that the whole family be able to enjoy the entire loft, so fabrics are easy to maintain, and the radiator covers are rounded for safety. And that faux Cy Twombly in the dining area? An oversize blackboard awaiting its next scribble.
FROM FRONT DE LA ESPADA: CONSOLE (ENTRY). OBJECT METAL: STOREFRONT SYSTEM (DEN). BENDHEIM CORPORATION: STOREFRONT GLAZING. KNOLL: TABLE. POLLACK: BANQUETTE UPHOLSTERY. F. SCHUMACHER & CO.: PILLOW FABRIC. HOLLY HUNT: SOFA FABRIC (LIVING AREA). CASTEL THROUGH DONGHIA: CHAIR FABRIC, OTTOMAN FABRIC. GORDON INTERNATIONAL: CHAIR (DEN). HENRY CALVIN FABRICS: CHAIR FABRIC. KID O: STOOLS. ROOST: HORN LAMP. LANE'S FLOOR COVERINGS: RUG (DEN, LIVING AREA). OLY: TABLE (LIVING AREA). THROUGH REMAINS LIGHTING: PENDANT FIXTURE. THROUGH REGENERATION: LAMPS. BLANCHE P. FIELD: CUSTOM LAMP SHADES. KRAVET: CURTAIN FABRIC. THROUGH DANIEL DONNELLY: SCREEN (LIVING AREA, DEN). INTÉRIEURS: TABLE (DINING AREA). HICKORY CHAIR COMPANY: CHAIRS. JOSEPH NOBLE: CHAIR FABRIC. CORY MOSCHETTI: CUSTOM CHANDELIER. THROUGH DESIGN WITHIN REACH: STOOLS (KITCHEN). VIKING RANGE CORPORATION: WINE REFRIGERATOR. SUB-ZERO: REFRIGERATOR. FRANKE: SINK FITTINGS. ANP LIGHTING: PENDANT FIXTURES. WATERWORKS: TILE. BDDW: TABLE (BEDROOM). WILLIAMS-SONOMA: BED. A.M. COLLECTIONS: CUSTOM RUG. THROUGHOUT WISE CONSTRUCTION CORP.: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.