All the right moves
With clever spatial solutions and must-have furnishings, Roger Hirsch Architect and interior design firm Tocar revived a tired TriBeCa loft
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
"It was a model job," says Roger Hirsch. No, not a fashion shoot. The architect was referring to a collaboration between his namesake studio and the design firm Tocar, hired by a pair of design-savvy art collectors. Tocar partners Susan Bednar and Christina Sullivan concur. Explains Bednar, "Our firm's name is Spanish for "to touch or influence," which is what we do best with clients."
To transform the 1,900-square-foot TriBeCa apartment from blah to bedazzling, Hirsch, associate Myriam Corti, and Tocar agreed on total demolition. Despite the space's "loft" billing, low ceilings and superfluous walls made it enclosed and dark—more an "uptown" two-bedroom than a downtown loft.
"We opened up the entry by blowing out a guest-bedroom-cum-study and relocating the second bath. Immediately, it was more loftlike," says Bednar. But leaving an unarticulated expanse—with a loss of function areas—wasn't the game plan either. The clients still needed definition, work space, and a spot for the occasional guest to call home.
A few deft strokes addressed these exigencies as well as allowing the architects and designers to make a materials statement of their own. Just past the entry, Hirsch and Corti inserted their cleverest element: a 9-foot-long, 8-foot, 9-inch-high ebony partition that not only screened the dining area but also contained stealth guest quarters in the form of a custom Murphy bed. Tocar then added translucent cotton draperies affixed to a ceiling track, allowing them to be drawn for separation or tucked out of sight in the partition's touch-latch closets. The result: semiprivate quarters for visitors and, once they're gone, no wasted space for the clients.
A second multipurpose trick addressed work-play questions. On the living area's end wall, a 13-foot-long teak counter with flip-top segments incorporated business-minded storage drawers and a tackboard. Meanwhile, the wall above the ledge served as a film and TV screen for a ceiling-mounted projector. Charles and Ray Eames's Aluminum Group chairs, in apple-green leather, doubled as task seating and front row.
The architects and Tocar devised yet another clever treatment to separate the dining area and kitchen: a 9-foot-square, steel-edged sliding panel that also supports an intricate cut-paper collage by Dodi Wexler—one of many artworks the clients describe as "obsessive-compulsive." For the dining side, Tocar selected a Jérôme Abel Seguin teak table, complemented by custom teak chairs and a groovy 1960's molded-plastic console by Ettore Sottsass.
The kitchen's star piece boasts a similarly prestigious lineage. Bednar and Sullivan handpicked some 120 vintage Roger Capron ceramic tiles, numbered the back of each, and installed them—in the required order—on the top surface of a brushed-steel counter. "They were a lucky find," says Bednar. "Both we and our clients had seen them separately at the shop."
The living area's mix of contemporary, vintage, and custom furniture proved equally worthy of discerning eyes. Seating comprises Antonio Citterio's Solo sofa, Poul Kjaerholm's PK-31 chairs, and Arne Jacobsen's Egg chair and ottoman. Tables are all Tocar creations. For side tables, Bednar and Sullivan designed python-covered models; for a cocktail table, the designers combined a chrome base, circa 1960, with a glass top. To anchor it all? A ne plus ultra custom rug, stitched squares of Italian pony skin.
Hirsch, Corti, and Tocar installed American black-walnut flooring in the art-filled master suite, along with a 9 1/2-foot-high panel of acid-etched glass to separate the bedroom from a dressing area. Up-lit by fluorescents recessed in the floor, the panel reveals the blurred orange-painted backs of the dressing area's three storage towers—like an uncanny architectural Mark Rothko.
Given the loft's enviable art and furnishings, it's a surprise that all four participants cite the 45-square-foot guest bathroom as their favorite. Then again, with a floor of honed marble, a shimmering counter of Galaxy schist, a floating wengé cabinet, and an integrally lit mirror set flush against custom Jonathan Adler ceramic wall tiles, we can see why.