Home, Suite Home
George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg dress up a New York pied-à-terre with treasures from near and far
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 10/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
It had been years of shuttling between Yabu Pushelberg's Toronto headquarters and its Gotham outpost. "I was sick of staying in New York hotels," says principal George Yabu. The firm is currently working on three hospitality projects in the Big Apple, so Yabu and coprincipal and life partner Glenn Pushelberg could have created a hotel that suited them perfectly. Instead, a scouting request from star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten led the Canadian designers to put down actual U.S. roots.
Four years ago, the restaurateur asked Pushelberg to tour the vacant ground floor of one of the Richard Meier & Partners Architects glass boxes on the Hudson River. Thomas Juul-Hansen ultimately carried out the commission to create Vongerichten's restaurant Perry Street, but the visit served as the Canadians introduction to the building; exploiting a recent dip in Manhattan's real-estate market, the couple purchased an apartment upstairs.
The developer delivered the entire 4,000-square-foot second level, with its concrete ceiling and floor, almost completely raw. "They gave us a $35 sink and a $100 toilet without any partition around it," recalls Yabu, amused by the absurdity of New York regulations. Those were temporary, of course, but buying one of the building's last unfinished units meant navigating around drain lines descending from completed apartments. The space stood vacant for a year while Yabu planned its dramatic center-hall scheme. "Had we started sooner, the layout might have been a little different," he admits.
A dropped gypsum ceiling conceals the concrete slab and plumbing overhead. Where Meier had washed the slender cast-concrete columns with acid to dull them, Yabu decided to burnish back some of the original gloss. "In contrast to the building, we were going for a residential feel," he says. Other finishes also display the designers' signature attention to detail, although with less splendor than they would use for a hotel: "We didn't use ostentatious materials. No tiger wood or leather-paneled walls," notes Pushelberg.
To give millwork a touch of the exotic—without bringing down a tree—an old laurel log was reclaimed from the bottom of a waterway in India. It became bedroom cabinetry and was also flitched to veneer 3/4-inch particleboard for the walls of the center gallery hall, which features flush door panels that open into the master suite and two guest bedrooms. "The apartment has two lives," says Pushelberg of the public and private spaces. "We live behind the secret doors."
Wall-to-wall beige wool carpet in all bedrooms gives what Yabu terms "a slight 1960's feel." But the en suite bathroom flooring defaults to the public area's travertine slabs, which an Italian stonecutter laid out in his warehouse like a life-size jigsaw puzzle. (A Yabu Pushelberg employee was dispatched to Italy to inspect adjoining slabs for continuity of color before the floor was shipped.)
Because the exterior walls are entirely glazed, every room has floor-to-ceiling windows, which are cloaked with diaphanous white linen-blend curtains. In the kitchen, the line of white LEDs hidden in the perimeter ceiling cove from which the curtains fall illuminates the fabric dropping into the void behind the sink counter. Still, when the curtains are open, the second-floor apartment is something of a fishbowl. Pushelberg recalls meeting a neighbor who had not yet been invited into the apartment, but confidently asked where the living-area sofa had been purchased.
The pair furnished the space with custom items from many of their favorite Toronto resources. An upholsterer created custom tufted sofas that, harem-style, fill the media room from wall to wall. The living area's low three-leg chair, one of only a handful made, was formerly owned by Canadian-furniture titan Klaus Nienkamper. Yabu and Pushelberg campaigned to acquire the piece for an entire decade.
The designers found much of the art and furniture during their extensive travels. "We're working in 15 countries now, and we've been to well over a hundred," Pushelberg says. In the dining area, a mounted deer head covered in acrylic spheres is the work of a Japanese artist. In the living area, a white rug woven with a polar-bearskin motif came from Italy, as did an adjacent pair of low Asian-modern chairs. It turns out, however, that a Milanese furniture dealer actually found the chairs in Kerry Beauchemin's design shop, B4, in New York. In fact, it was Beauchemin who gave the chairs their distinctive green tweed upholstery after using them for years in his own living room. Sometimes it takes a lot of circuitous travel to find the way home.
PROJECT TEAM EDUARDO FIGUEREDO; KEVIN STOREY: YABU PUSHELBERG. MANCINI DUFFY: ARCHITECT OF RECORD. ISOMETRIX LIGHTING AND DESIGN: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. LNPC CONSULTING ENGINEERS: MEP. PANCOR INDUSTRIES: WOODWORK. BERNSOHN & FETNER: GENERAL CONTRACTOR. PRODUCT SOURCES FROM FRONT THROUGH ABC CARPET & HOME: CHAIRS (CLOSET, HALL). TPL LIGHTING: COVE FIXTURES (HALL). THROUGH LESLIE TONKONOW ARTWORKS + PROJECTS: COCKTAIL TABLE (LIVING AREA). LOUIS INTERIORS: CUSTOM SOFAS (LIVING AREA, MEDIA ROOM). THROUGH NILUFAR: LOW CHAIRS, RUG (LIVING AREA). THROUGH PEGASO: SIDE TABLE. THROUGH YOUNGBLOOD: PENDANT FIXTURE (MASTER BEDROOM). DORNBRACHT: TUB, SINK FITTINGS (BATHROOM). THROUGH JED: END TABLES (LARGE GUEST BEDROOM). INTERIOR ELEMENTS: HEADBOARD. THROUGH KIOSK: CONSOLE. THROUGH ESEMPI DEL900: SCREEN (SMALL GUEST BEDROOM). MOLTENI C: BED. THROUGHOUT THROUGH SULLIVAN SOURCE: CARPET. THROUGH COVERINGS: STONE FLOORING.