Blackman Turns It On
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 10/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Mr. and Mrs. McMansion may live out of town, but their interior designers are all-too-frequently New York–based. That simple fact proved a constant challenge for Blackman Plumbing Supply, founded in 1921. Yes, the Blackman salespeople roamed Manhattan streets from atelier to atelier, toting brochures for fine fixtures and hardware. But none of the company's nine showrooms were convenient for locals needing to test a tub.
Then the company purchased space in a 1906 building in the Flatiron District—and brought in Shelton, Mindel & Associates to turn the second-floor corner loft into Blackman New York, a 7,000-square-foot environment for over 150 manufacturers and a sales staff of 15. With so many faucets and fixtures jostling for attention, partner Lee Mindel concedes, "It could have become a battle of the brands." So he and partner Peter Shelton incorporated abundant, cleverly concealed storage and gleaming, wipe-able surfaces to keep the space as minimal and hygienic as the architects' trademark kitchens and bathrooms.
First to go were the old pine plank floors, replaced by a trim, deftly scored 3-inch slab of gray concrete. White industrial tile clads the wall of one long corridor, punctuated by doors of frameless acid-etched glass. Mindel says that the glass evokes shower stalls—of which Blackman has two, one being fully functional. Sheathing the other walls, satin-finished glacier-white Corian precisely matches panels of lacquered casework hiding rows of sleek drawer pulls. Shelton and Mindel neatly fitted this cabinetry between the windows, wooden double-hungs framing 9-foot-tall views.
To highlight those views, the partners clustered all plumbing products away from the perimeter of the space and zoned the layout to preserve a large open area. At the center is a freestanding white-painted perforated-metal cylinder housing a variety of merchandise. Meanwhile, at each end of the showroom, Corian-clad pavilions display a medley of tubs and sinks, as do low Corian podiums sprinkled throughout.
Above the podiums, Shelton and Mindel assembled "industrial chandeliers" from carefully chosen conduit and halogen floodlights, all now lacquered a luxurious white. Glass-lensed fluorescents are slotted into each pavilion's ceiling, while the loft's own ceiling maintains nearly its full 11-foot height, thanks in part to the architects' signature surface-mounted jelly-jar fixtures, which eliminate the need for recessed spotlights.
Longtime salespeople familiar with the Manhattan market helped cull and augment the showroom's offerings. Among recent additions, Zodiaq solid surfacing sees action in the conference area, where a cloud-white terrazzo pattern forms the tops of custom worktables with stainless-steel bases. ("Designers need layout space for plans," explains showroom director David Esbin.) Below the tables, Shelton and Mindel laid a matching pair of custom handwoven area rugs, both delicately gridded with a combination of wool and silk yarn in seven shades of blue-gray.
Another two worktables stand around a corner near the entry, behind a white-lacquered barn door for extra privacy. However, designers and our friends the McMansions typically prefer to spend their time out in the open—visits that can run to five or six hours when it's a question of choosing a houseful of sinks, tubs, showerheads, and faucets. Would you like fries with that?