Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
There's scant glory for architects carving out raw loft apartments in existing buildings. The namesake principal of James Harb Architects, for instance, designed the masterful conversion of the Carl Fischer Building, once the headquarters of a music publisher. Harb reworked interior circulation and punched generous windows through the south-facing facade—in the process weathering a heated debate over preservation of a 10-story-high musical note painted on by Fischer.
A Greenwich Village landmark, the mural survives as the default logo for the conversion, which has attracted buyers such as singer Norah Jones. But the architect's role in the revamp went unnoticed by the public, since he had not designed a model unit. Then two young attorneys, Ted Stachtiaris and Meridith Sopher, commissioned Harb to complete their 3,000-square-foot loft, the largest of three on the sixth floor. The space was delivered with few walls, just a rudimentary bathroom and a plastic-laminate kitchen meant to be gutted.
Planning on children, the couple asked for an efficient family apartment with three bedrooms and three baths, detailed in a neutral palette of black, grays, and natural wood tones. To keep a "memory of the industrial space," says Harb, he agreed to leave a modest patch of the original brick exposed. The public spaces were designed to flow into one another, maintaining an open feeling.
Beginning this fluid sequence is a wide, gracious gallery intended for the display of black-and-white photography and 1930's realist paintings. Behind the sidewall's gray-stained plywood panels, however, hides a trim laundry alcove. Another pair of panels conceals a coat closet that impressed the longtime New Yorkers with its sheer size. "I used to make Ted stand in it with me!" says Sopher, laughing.
Across the hall, milky glass doors front the three bedrooms. The first two sandwich a single bathroom. (One bedroom is a home office; the couple's 19-month-old daughter occupies the other.)
The third door leads to the master suite, which fills a corner overlooking the roof of the Public Theater. Afternoon sun falls in noirish stripes through ebonized-wood Venetian blinds on the seven oversize double-hung windows. A chunky custom wall-mounted dresser in driftwood-stained oak veneer complements the massive walnut-veneered platform bed. Up a step—necessary because plumbing could not be recessed below the building's concrete structure—the suite flows uninterrupted into a daylit bathroom featuring custom halogen sconces, a steam shower, jade marble slabs, and sea-foam marble mosaic tiles.
The apartment is far enough above the sidewalk for Harb's new windows to give the living area long vistas down the Bowery. For an even better vantage, he elevated a portion of the ebonized-oak floor almost as high as the windowsills to form a raised sitting area with conversationally grouped furniture. For a family home, the look is particularly cool and urban. "The good news is we have very similar tastes," says Harb, clearly pleased he could finally put his stamp on one of the building's interiors.