Ron Nyren -- Interior Design, 5/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
An imposing tower of Carnelian granite, the former Bank of America headquarters is arguably San Francisco's premier business address. And KKR Financial, which had the good fortune to snag the 50th floor, is a specialty-finance affiliate of a very established private-equity firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. So you'd be forgiven for expecting to find the new 25,000-square-foot headquarters filled with dark paneling and furniture so formal you don't dare sit. Instead, KKR Financial pursued a contrarian strategy.
Executives at the company travel a lot, often conducting meetings at five-star hotels and resorts around the world, and CEO Saturnino S. Fanlo charged Huntsman Architectural Group with replicating that luxury and comfort. There was just one potential deal breaker: office furniture. "Especially," Huntsman director of design Mark Harbick says, "chairs with five-star bases."
Fanlo introduced Harbick to a studio called Ironies, known for organically inspired furnishings. Ironies owner Kate McIntyre became the project's furniture consultant, collaborating with Harbick on many custom pieces. Two chandeliers are made of segments of polished horn. Some tables are surfaced with shagreen or eel skin; others are topped with mother-of-pearl or cast stone. And, yes, almost all chairs are the four-leg variety—upholstered, big, and comfy.
The 50th-floor elevator lobby serves as a transition zone. It borrows the rich, dark feel of the building's lobby, with paneling wrapped in a butterscotch woven and a persimmon-colored rug on the black slate floor. Reception, by contrast, is a light and neutral frame for the million-dollar view of the Transamerica Pyramid and San Francisco Bay. The first curveball is a "concierge" desk with a top of rough-hewn teak and graceful silver-leafed legs. Behind the desk, a wall upholstered in baseball-stitched distressed leather gives a strong signal that this is going to be no traditional financial company.
To make analysts' offices feel less like, well, offices, desks are built into walls of cerused-oak cabinetry that conceals printers and other technology. That arrangement left space in the middle of each office for a small meeting table and chairs or a seating area. No two offices are exactly alike. The same chair shows up in four types of leather; tables have different tops.
"The hardest part of the job was the two executive offices," Harbick says. "As the tower rises, floor plates become shallower along the sides of the building, but the corners remain unchanged, creating oddly shaped narrow spaces with views on three sides." The designers divided the 46-foot-long executive suite in half, with an interconnecting meeting room between.
You can't have a hotel without a restaurant, so of course there's a kitchen. "If people aren't at their trading desks, that's where they are," investor-relations director Laurie Poggi says. A caterer brings food in for lunch or dinner meetings. Most of the meeting rooms look more like private dining rooms, with the technology again concealed—just the kind of relaxed environment for a handshake deal worth millions.