Getting the Spa Treatment
Sheila Kim-Jamet -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Between cranky co-op boards, complaining neighbors, and the dust and grime of construction, renovating a New York apartment is not exactly a walk in the park. Or a trip to the spa. Except in the case of this Upper East Side penthouse, inspired by the owner's serendipitous visit to Murray Hill's Greenhouse Day Spa. Admiring its clean and tranquil aesthetic, he proceeded to track down the spa's architect, the namesake principal of S. Russell Groves.
To massage a similar air of restfulness into the 2,000-square-foot two-bedroom, Groves set about enhancing its best attribute, namely 38th-floor views in three directions. This involved rejiggering the compartmentalized layout to draw natural light into the core while improving sight lines out to the perimeter.
The architect's first step was to tear down a wall that blocked off the window-ringed living area from the windowless foyer. He also broke through part of a wall between the corner master bedroom and a small guest room with only one window, converting the latter space into a home office—one that benefits from sunlight filtering through the opening to the bedroom.
While brightening the interior and improving circulation, the new layout furthermore gives a conceptual nod to the client's mathematical inclinations as a finance executive. "We inserted rationality and simple math into the design," says Groves, explaining how he drew a nautilus shape over the floor plan, then charted two axes through the heart of the spiral. At precisely the points where those lines touched the walls of main corridors—which radiate out from the foyer—he placed paintings from the client's collection of contemporary art, installed against panels of white-gloss lacquer.
The proportions of the golden section determined the forms of drawers and compartments in the office's custom mahogany cabinetry. In the master bedroom next door, Groves designed credenzalike white-lacquered covers for HVAC units as well as a bed with light fixtures for late-night reading, cleverly hidden inside the headboard of rift-cut oak. His contributions to the public spaces include the living area's armless upholstered lounge chairs and the dining area's slim-legged table topped in limestone.
The dining table is surrounded by Piero Lissoni's lacquered beechwood chairs. Poul Kjaerholm gets his moment in the living area, his wicker chaise striking a jaunty pose between his round leather-covered stool and square lacquer-topped nesting tables. And all are reflected in the new floor of ebonized cherry, replacing the existing parquet.
Gleaming wood flooring gives way to mosaic tile in the three bathrooms, white for the master bath and beige-and-white for the guest baths. The Greenhouse spa's soothing vocabulary inspired the boxy custom vanities that cantilever from the walls, creating a streamlined look and allowing for easy floor cleaning. Shower stalls feature frameless doors, and the master bath's porcelain tub encourages long soaking sessions—almost as good as a day at the spa.