Deborah Wilk -- Interior Design, 7/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Park Avenue South is not exactly known for its serenity. Densely populated with every sort of commercial venue, from corporate towers to greasy diners, this bustling New York avenue has rarely been regarded as a place to call home. A recent spate of residential conversions, however, is changing such notions. Shamir Shah Design's public spaces and apartment interiors for a new 110-unit condominium—composed of three former office buildings—are a lesson in thoughtful comfort.
The lobby is elegant and intimate. Walls are clad in quartz-composite faux flagstones and tile of glass or limestone; flooring is also limestone, with tawny brown carpet insets. "It's important to be able to get off the street and into a quiet space when returning home," says Shamir Shah, whose personal preference is for natural materials. The mazelike lobby represents his response to the property's storefronts, a bank and a tile showroom. One of the resulting corridors runs along a window wall looking onto a courtyard that, dressed in the same faux flagstones, now reads like a soothing rock garden.
Black-and-white contemporary photographs line this particular lobby corridor. Behind the white glass-fronted reception desk, earth tones swirl in an abstract mural. On a wall near the entry hangs a ceramic sculpture by a building resident. A lounge furnished with Shah-designed furniture and rugs is set against a wall surfaced in Macassar ebony veneer.
Attention to restful details continues upstairs, where the apartments' open plans are anchored by high-tech kitchens. Sinks are built into the Calacatta marble counters of the islands, which also contain wine refrigerators and microwaves. Shah lacquered the cabinetry high-gloss white, off-white, or anthracite. In the smaller units, the lacquered doors conceal the range hoods for the cooktops.
In the entry of a 4,200-square-foot penthouse with a 3,200-square-foot wraparound terrace, a walnut door seems to melt into the walnut wall panels—until it opens to reveal a handsomely chocolate-brown powder room. For the master bath, Shah specified a cool gray glaze for the subway tiles and Carrara marble mosaic tiles for the floor. The walnut vanity cabinet is set below two mirrors, flanked by nickel sconces with milk-glass shades.
Along one wall, a soaking tub with a Calacatta marble surround abuts a glass-enclosed shower. It's backed by a single slab of identical marble, washed by cove lighting. In a minimal touch, the showerhead is flush with the ceiling.
A rain shower pours down on bathers in an alternate master bath design; they also get sprayed by multiple heads along two opposite walls. The cove-lit marble slab in this version descends to join a built-in bench, convenient while using the hand shower. Set against subway tile glazed a lighter gray, the walnut vanity and nickel sconces also appear.
Shah, whose clients are primarily private, finds his role as a developer's designer a compelling challenge—this project is his fifth. "It's certainly a different hat, designing for broad appeal," he says. Broad, however, does not translate as boring. "We've seen a significant change in what developers can sell," he adds. "I hope we're putting decent housing on the market." That's something in which we can all take comfort.