Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 9/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
"Location, location, location" is the perennial mantra in real estate, but it often takes more than a trendy address to close a deal, especially for anyone preparing to ante up $3,500 per month for a one-bedroom. Evocative branding can also play a role, which is why the Related Companies—hoping to underline the connection between a mixed-use Chelsea development and nearby contemporary-art galleries—chose to name the new high-rise the Tate.
On, then, to bricks-and-mortar aspects of identity. According to real-estate theory, potential tenants may glance at exteriors, but it's luxurious interior finishes that make the biggest impression. "It's about perceived value," says the Rockwell Group's Michael W.F. Fischer. As part of his duties as design architect for the Tate—a 313-unit building with art galleries street-front—Fischer planned a glamorous entry sequence with unexpected materials.
The Tate experience begins with the main entry's door pull, shaped like a tree branch. (Fischer went to Manhattan's flower district, bought a bundle of red-birch twigs, and sent one to Todd Oldham's metalsmith brother, Brad, who cast it in bronze.) Behind the glass door is the 620-square-foot lobby, a lush departure from contemporary art's white-box minimalism.
Behind the Tate's reception desk, natural red-birch branches are aligned against a glowing niche framed by knife-edged maple panels. Slim concealed fluorescent tubes illuminate this niche, painted a cheddar color Rockwell Group interior designer Gregory Stanford calls "deep amber." The elevator lobbies' similar orange niches, fitted with grow lights, hold small cactus dioramas.
The tree-branch motif is echoed by the waiting area's Tibetan wool rug, with its brown lines waving against a taupe background. The rug furthermore serves to anchor the lobby's main seating group: an armless sofa in lightly antiqued chocolate velvet, mohair-covered walnut lounge chairs by Paul Mathieu, bronze occasional tables by Spencer Fung, and his floor lamp with a square custom shade of shredded chenille.
In deference to the Tate's garden courtyard, an indoor-outdoor spirit pervades the lobby, and several of the interior finishes are actually exterior-grade. The wall cladding at reception is heavily tooled Jerusalem stone, hung from concealed metal clips generally used for facades. The stone's "messy Mondrian" pattern was inspired by Carlo Scarpa, Stanford says. Halogen floodlights, recessed in a deep ceiling cove, graze the rough surface.
Natural imagery continues along the ground level's corridors, where white river-stone mosaics border flamed-granite flooring. A pair of unusual Kenneth Cobonpue club chairs with rattan-wrapped wire frames stand in the skylit mailbox zone, and inventive natural-fiber wall coverings add texture as they thread through the sequence. A vinyl coating insures commercial-grade durability for the treatment, whose texture Stanford compares to that of trendy handmade writing paper.
For a touch of bona fide nature, landscape firm HM White Site Architects designed a garden courtyard and a roof deck of fragrant cedar planks bordered by river rock. Consider the teak deck chairs—with their panoramic perspective on the Hudson River—as the final flourish on the Tate sales pitch.
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