David Yurman's TriBeCa headquarters shows architect Thomas Juul-Hansen at his finest
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
David Yurman's coiled gold chokers and bangles have become a fixture on swanlike necks and delicate wrists around the globe, but the jewelry entrepreneur's first professional venture was less rarefied. "As a teenager growing up on Long Island, I worked in the city during the holidays, selling Christmas trees from a shed in TriBeCa," he recalls. The career path didn't take—but the neighborhood did. For 31 years and counting, Yurman has lived there with his wife and business partner, Sybil. Recently, he moved his corporate headquarters to the same part of town, leasing the topmost two floors of a converted printing house near the Holland Tunnel.
"We're just downtown people," he says. Besides, the former uptown office couldn't keep up with the explosive growth of the business. "We were rats in a maze," he says. Architect Thomas Juul-Hansen, who handled the TriBeCa interior, vehemently agrees: "It was a complete mishmash of small, jammed rooms. The place was obviously maxed out."
In contrast, the 64,000-square-foot new headquarters provides natural light and wraparound views to Yurman's previously landlocked employees—some 275 of them. The office's centerpiece is a dramatic atrium, immediately visible from the elevator. "You walk in and see the heavens, a big shaft of light," says Juul-Hansen. Connection to the great outdoors also guided finishes. "The brand is all about nature," he continues. "This project provided a chance to put a materials signature on who David Yurman is and what he stands for."
In fact, the interior explicitly reflects the company's promotional and retail efforts—overseen by ad guru David Lipman, who originally introduced architect and client. "We collaborated to ensure that the palette was consistent with the established identity," says Juul-Hansen. That translated into buttery limestone in public areas, bamboo flooring in the Yurmans' offices and the adjacent conference room, a Scandinavian-style slatted-oak ceiling in the showroom, and millwork of ribbon-striped mahogany throughout. The atrium's steel staircase, which ascends to a roof deck, folds over a contemplative field of slate-colored river stones. Crossing from his offices to the design studio on the opposite side of the atrium, says Yurman, "I really feel the transition, the decompression."
Enhancing the pervasive calm is a mix of Danish mid-century pieces that Juul-Hansen selected to round out Yurman's already impressive collection. In the atrium lounge, a vintage rosewood credenza is paired with leather lounge chairs by Arne Norell; in the conference room, Arne ' Jacobsen's leather-covered chairs surround a 1950's wooden table. The aesthetic purity works well as a contrast to the jewelry, says Juul-Hansen. Adds Yurman, "What I love about Danish design is that it doesn't impose, that it has a very real sense of purpose."
Likewise the office itself. "This is a work space, not an architectural feat," he continues. How the space functions is as important as how it looks, not always the case when it comes to image-driven businesses. Executive architect HLW conducted extensive staff interviews to map out adjacencies that would enhance both flow and security. The perimeter offices have been kept to a minimum, in favor of workstation bays slipped into the column grid. On the executive floor, jewelry fabrication connects to the design studio, fitted out with custom neoprene-topped tables and U-shape workstations clad in plastic laminate, all wheeled for easy reconfiguration. The Yurmans' two offices are near the showroom, a 60-foot-long space that spans a window wall overlooking the Hudson River. "The buyers love it—we don't even have to send limousines for them anymore," jokes Yurman. (It's also multipurpose: divisible into three via floor-to-ceiling wool drapery.)
"The relocation gave us an opportunity to reinvent how we work, changing everything from storage to distribution to processing," he adds. However, some aspects of the business haven't changed an iota—notably a penchant for direct communication. "We do a lot of huddling here," he explains. "There's something about seeing faces that makes things happen in an organization. It's a water-cooler kind of thing."
Like with any family business, congregating often happens at mealtime. On Monday mornings, it's Krispy Kreme doughnuts served at the loading dock. Tuesday evenings, the design meetings are fueled by a smorgasbord. "Food brings us together," explains Yurman. "Sybil's dad once gave me a piece of career advice. He said, 'The most import thing you can do is feed your staff.'" Food for thought indeed.