Kimberly Goad -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Rick Shaver isn't new to the high-low game—pairing the inexpensive with the expensive, so no one notices when, say, late Louis XIV shares the spotlight with early Crate & Barrel. "I'll buy a $20,000 dining table and put an $800 chair with it," the Shaver/Melahn Studios partner says. "I call it my 'Armani suit with Gap T-shirt' look."
Enlisted for his minimalist's eye, Shaver stretched the rules even further for Evie Porwick and Eileen Haubenstock, who were running two individual executive-recruitment agencies but planned to share premises in the name of friendship and cost cutting. (Evie Porwick/ FPO staffs media firms; Eileen Haubenstock & Associates specializes in advertising.) "For once, I had to go completely Gap," he says.
The existing space, a 1,400-square-foot floor-through in a 100-year-old Midtown building, was structurally sound but in desperate need of a makeover. Take the chromatic scheme of black and gray—plus the fire-engine red used, inexplicably, on the exposed ductwork. Shaver's first move was to dispose of the gray wall-to-wall carpeting. Then he simply sanded and polyurethaned the maple floorboards found underneath.
Almost everything would be shared: kitchen, conference room, and private rooms to interview job hunters. However, Shaver had to figure out a way to give Porwick and Haubenstock separate offices. As he couldn't divide the long and narrow space front to back—lest he leave one of his clients in the dark—he placed side-by-side offices up front, near the windows, so each woman would enjoy equal amounts of natural light. To partition the offices, he initially considered translucent Lumasite acrylic, but he quickly abandoned that plan upon discovering that the cost would consume a big chunk of his budget. He ended up using sailcloth instead.
Not only did sailcloth serve the same purpose, but the material also became a theme for the entire project. A sailcloth panel suspended behind the reception desk hides a fax machine, a printer, and two coatracks. Sailcloth curtains hide pantry items in the kitchen. The inexpensive canvas even covers shelves in the conference room and a love seat and two chairs in the reception area.
"The thing that drove the whole design was budget," Shaver says, pointing out several additional materials he might not have considered otherwise. For instance, Venetian stucco panels appear along hallways and in interview rooms, where one might expect to find maple or other hardwoods. Instead of installing traditional moldings around doorways, Shaver painted the metal casings the same pale green that's featured as an accent throughout.
"We took all the hard surfaces and softened them with color and faux treatments," he explains—admitting that Haubenstock balked when he announced his intention to paper the wall behind the reception desk in a classic rose-and-gray floral. "She's a very no-frills person, so the flowers scared her at first. But I said, 'We have got to have a touch of whimsy.'"