Dressed to Kill
A shared fashion background informs Bonetti/Kozerski Studio's stiletto-sharp office for New York ad agency Laird + Partners
Marisa Bartolucci -- Interior Design, 11/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Trey Laird knows about the power of image. Last year, his Gap ad featuring Madonna and Missy Elliott—dressed in corduroys and caps, singing a remix of "Into the Groove"—put the struggling retail giant back on the fashion map. This season's Sarah Jessica Parker campaign is keeping it there. But when Laird hired Bonetti/Kozerski Studio to design the headquarters of his New York agency, Laird + Partners, what he and the architects talked about first was not the look, but the plan.
"They were in makeshift quarters, and it just wasn't working," explains principal Enrico Bonetti. The agency needed both private spaces, where clients and account executives could develop campaign concepts, as well as open work and meeting areas that encouraged an easy to-and-fro of ideas among staff.
Configuring interiors to support different kinds of interaction is just the kind of challenge that suits Italian-born Bonetti and British principal Dominic Kozerski. The success of their four-year-old firm has hinged as much on a talent for pleasing people as for shaping space. The two honed their skills at Peter Marino Architects a decade ago. Kozerski's first job was to serve as the go-between on Donna Karan's boutique in London. It was a date with destiny. Karan and Laird—her creative director at the time—took such a liking to Kozerski that they hired him to head up store design for the company.
Five years later on, the architects found themselves formulating ideas for the Laird + Partners job. "We spent weeks thinking about how to organize everybody," says Bonetti. Once the duo had a scheme in mind, they took Laird real-estate hunting.
The three found their ideal in the far western reaches of Midtown, in a 1920's industrial building that also houses Richard Meier & Partners, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, and Time Out New York. A window-rimmed 18,000-square-foot rectangle with 14-foot ceilings, the space enabled Bonetti/ Kozerski to establish two perpendicular progressions. The shorter of the two starts at the elevator lobby and ends at Laird's office and the library. The lengthwise axis connects open work and meeting space, private offices, and service areas.
The elevators open onto an alcove with a mysterious deep-blue sheen, an effect achieved by spraying the walls with automotive paint. Beyond a glass partition is a reception area bathed in light and appointed with furnishings that convey the agency's hip, restrained style. A severe tone is set by the rough-hewn oak desk, Fabien Baron's clean-lined sofas covered in light gray wool, and Studio ATU's two low tables, 36-inch squares of polished stainless steel and black-veined white marble. But the prevailing minimalism is accented by the whimsical filigree of Marcel Wanders's Knotted chair and the bright red lacquer of Baron's sticklike armchairs, more conceptual than material. "I'm not into 'tricked up' modern," Laird explains, citing a preference for "contemporary yet classic, like Barragán."
Adding to the reception area's austere glamour, what appears to be a glossy black wall is actually just one side of a 12-foot-high L-shape volume containing a presentation room, a coat closet, and the office of Laird's assistant. The structure's gleaming surface looks expensive, but it's actually Bakelite, the synthetic resin that became popular in the 1920's when it appeared in the form of bracelets. "We play a lot with expectations about rich and poor materials," says Bonetti.
On the far side of the cube, he and Kozerski placed the conference room, its runway-length table of marble and oiled oak paired with a dozen black leather-padded chairs by Charles and Ray Eames. Farthest back is Laird's corner office, where the tongue-in-cheek traditionalism of a slipper chair in black tufted leather engages the contemporary spirit of a Robert Longo lithograph. The mood reverts to pure contemporary when a white-lacquered pocket door slides back to reveal the stained-oak grid of the library's 14-foot-tall bookcase.
Adjacent to the library, along the same east-facing elevation, the bull pen enjoys morning light enhanced by an expert concoction of halide, fluorescent, and incandescent lamps. Pinup and production areas occupy the center of the floor, surrounded by spacious white-walled workstations on three sides. On the fourth are the offices of senior account executives, plus a meeting room and a communal kitchen, its walls painted apple green.
The white expanse of the bull pen is bookended by walls painted vermilion and tangerine, and that's not all for the snappy colors. Surfaces are papered with an ever changing collage of campaign images, so ambience varies according to the work in progress. You might say the office is as classic as a pair of Gap jeans, its personality deriving from the accessories.