Those were the days
For a blast from the past, tune in to TV Land's New York offices by HLW International
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 5/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Reality TV may have rocketed to the top of the Nielsen ratings lately. When it comes to staying power, though, all bets are on the nostalgia shows. One of the biggest names in the biz is TV Land, an MTV Networks division that promotes and broadcasts classic American sitcoms. In addition to airing I Love Lucy, Happy Days, and Gilligan's Island, the network has preserved TV's glory days by hiring HLW International to design a New York headquarters that's a living testament to the history of the medium.
Having previously designed offices for MTV Networks, HLW partner and design director John C. Mack was quite familiar with the client's wants and wonts. "Our learning curve was greatly diminished with respect to building and planning," he says. Since efficiency, adjacency, mobility, and other mundane issues had already been hammered out, he explains, the firm was able to "tap into TV Land's heart and soul," capturing the humor and drama of TV's golden age.
The resultant 30,000-square-foot interior greets visitors with a ready-for-prime-time statement. Sweeping across the elevator lobby is a 75-foot-long zebrawood-veneered MDF canopy secured to the core wall by aircraft cables. Directly overhead, cutouts in the canopy frame recessed fixtures that cast monitor-shape pools of light on the vinyl floor.
This funky entry sequence leads to a glass-enshrined vignette from the original Honeymooners set. It's a dingy 1950s kitchen, complete with checkerboard linoleum, gas stove, and icebox. On the back wall is a smiling cartooned image of character Ralph Kramden.
Public areas likewise channel the past, with an assortment of mid-century furnishings and retro-inspired treatments. Witness the lobby, with overscale white vinyl-upholstered club chairs by Roberto Romanello and circle-motif carpet in the fiery crimson of TV Land's logo. "The red creates an anchor," explains senior associate Kimberly Sacramone.
The accent color repeats everywhere from copy-room enclosures to the staff café. Even the 12-by-24-foot boardroom gets in on the action, courtesy of a red-painted ceiling inset with oversize convex overheads, 4 feet in diameter. Underfoot stretches a swath of black rolled-vinyl flooring. The doors, conference table, and credenza are veneered in the same striated zebrawood as the entrance canopy. The wall between the boardroom and hallway is mostly clear glass, but a measure of visual privacy is provided by a large central lozenge in translucent etched glass.
Days of yore come to life in the four corner meeting zones, all comprising a conference room and a lounge outfitted like a living room. Each zone highlights a different decade, from the 1940s to the 1970s. The 1940s conference room, for instance, features period-specific velvet-covered chairs and a suspended translucent-glass shallow-dish light fixture illuminating the circular mahogany-topped table. The 1950s zone is pure rec room, with a geometric-patterned carpet, Isamu Noguchi seating and tables, and a groovy aluminum vintage lamp. A '50s-inspired brushed-aluminum chandelier by contemporary designer David Weeks hangs above a conference table graced by a vintage antenna. In the 1960s zone, George Nelson's Bubble lamps and Marshmallow sofa, Pierre Paulin's curvy 437 chairs, a Pedestal table by Eero Saarinen, and contemporary op-art wallpaper by Laurinda Spear transport staff and guests to the era of The Dick Van Dyke Show. In the fourth and final zone, kooky geometrics and dark mahogany furniture switch the channel to 1970s swank.
Breaking from the period theme are offices and work areas, sited along window walls. Custom workstations have maple partitions, overhead storage fronted in reinforced-acrylic panels, and ample shelf and drawer space offering maximum flexibility. Balancing modern convenience with timelessness, the system ensures that TV Land's office will age as well as any Leave It To Beaver episode.