Conversion Experience *
A master of residential interiors, Shamir Shah is expanding his range
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 1/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Shamir Shah knows how to make home feel homey. Just look at the interior architect's recently renovated one-bedroom in New York. Flooring of dark-stained salvaged butternut complements a wall covering of textured recycled paper, and a cushy ottoman positioned by the black marble mantelpiece is accessorized by a tiger-striped gray tabby cat (rescued from the street years ago).
Naturally, this ability to create warmth and comfort extends beyond his own doorstep. For the past four years, Shamir Shah Design has been bringing those attributes to every residential project, whether it's a Tudor house in the suburbs or a loft apartment downtown. And Shah still dedicates most of his time to individual clients. Lately, however, he's also been working with developers on residential conversions of 18 to 45 units.
How do you feel about the large-scale projects you've done?
It's both challenging and fun to work with developers. I find it similar, in a way, to branding: You're taking an existing building and turning it into an environment that's sellable. And it's great to be able to create continuity in the design, from the moment you walk in, then go through the lobby and enter the residential spaces.
What's different about working with developers?
I have to crunch more numbers for budgeting and feasibility. And my designs are broader-based in order to suit the target audience. For instance, instead of zebrawood, I'd use walnut.
What New York buildings have you converted into housing?
A turn-of-the-last-century Cass Gilbert building, a cast-iron building, a chocolate factory, and a garment factory.
Did those projects lead to new private clients?
Yes. At the chocolate factory, two buyers hired me to custom-fit their units and tweak the interior architecture. In one duplex, I installed a glass wall upstairs in the master bedroom, so it overlooked the living area.
What are you working on now?
It's a mix. A penthouse for a young family and an apartment at the new Time Warner Center as well as the conversion of an early 20th-century building for Yitzchak Tessler.
Tell us about converting New York's landmark 150 Nassau Street.
In the lobby, we were able to salvage some of the century-old architectural details, such as the beautiful ornate plasterwork above the reception desk, and marry them with today's aesthetic. (Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates handled most of the preservation job.) The upstairs we gutted, as there wasn't much in the office interiors that would have worked for condominiums. Then we added finishes like walnut and stainless steel in the kitchens and Carrara marble in the bathrooms and powder rooms.
What commercial projects have you worked on?
Commercial jobs are about 10 percent of our workload. One is Jonathan Adler's first store, where we came up with an easily changeable display wall using movable dowels. For Salon 25, a women's spa, we custom-made the vinyl-upholstered banquettes for the pedicure areas. When we designed Snackbar—a casual continental restaurant in a long, narrow space—we defined zones by using different kinds of materials: poured-in-place concrete countertops and galvanized steel in the bar area, a decorative steel screen and cork walls above banquettes in a dining area.
What appeals to you about residential architecture particularly?
I get satisfaction from listening to people and providing spaces that are both functional and comfortable. A living environment should be carefully thought out.
Restored original plasterwork above the backlit onyx reception desk at 150 Nassau Street, a New York conversion for Yitzchak Tessler.
The founder of Shamir Shah Design.
In the lobby at 150 Nassau.
A custom reception desk, faced in milk glass, and a mural by Malcolm Hill at the Salon 25 women's spa in New York.
The spa's vinyl-covered pedicure banquettes, also Shamir Shah designs.
A model condominium at 150 Nassau Street.
A New York apartment renovated by Shah.