Open to Interpretation
Artist Sylvain Bazinet designs Open, a bright, sleek, and airy lounge serving Manhattan's far West Side.
A. E. Block -- Interior Design, 8/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Situated in the burgeoning Chelsea art district, Open is many things. Functionally, it's a sunny espresso bar by day, a buzzing cocktail lounge by night. Stylistically, it wears even more hats: modern yet retro, minimalist yet colorful, industrial yet welcoming. Its design is influenced by the far-flung neighborhood's main draw: art galleries (in a ten-block stretch, there are some 170).
Inveterate gallery-goers themselves, Open co-owners Sylvain Bazinet, Greg Maltby, and Gregg Von Mirsky found the neighborhood lacked a place where people could have a quick coffee or sandwich during the day, a drink at night. A run-down, approximately 2,000-sq.-ft. tavern, in a choice corner location with dramatic sunset views, filled the niche perfectly. Bazinet, a painter and former fashion designer, began drawing sketches: "I always wanted to design a lounge but, since I have no [professional] furniture-design experience, I knew the only way I'd be given the job was if it was my own bar." Armed with sketches for the space and its furniture, the three-man team enlisted architect Jim Bartholomew to give the vision life.
Substantial renovations included tearing out the wood floor and sub-floor, replacing them with four in. of poured concrete, and also demolishing the black-painted brick storefront. The southern exposure now consists of floor-to-ceiling bi-fold glass doors that open to the street during fair weather; the west wall is a grid of aluminum-framed windows. Rows of much smaller squares adorn the exterior and interior walls in the form of one-in.-by-one-in. gray and white mosaic tiles.
More geometrics punctuate other details of the loft-like space. Open abuts a theater on its north side, so, to contain the lounge's noise, a soundproof wall was installed. It's made of overlapping rectangles of Homosote that Bazinet covered by hand with the underside of black denim, a nod to his fashion-design days. The ceiling is peppered with lights recessed into square openings. Custom rectangular sofas and ottomans, their design inspired by 1970s-era airport lounges, infuse the predominately white and gray space with a rush of red. More bold colors—yellow, orange, royal blue—animate the three-legged circular stools surrounding Open's 11-ft.-long communal table. Both this table and the dramatic 20-ft.-long bar are fashioned from stacked 3/4-in. slabs of plywood, screwed and glued together, then sanded and coated with a matte polyurethane, a design adapted from a frame Bazinet once made.
Ask Bazinet what the design concept is for the lounge and he'll say it's part art gallery, part residential loft, part '70s airport lounge. It's white and clean, red and sexy. It's open.