Say the name Manhattan, and images of bright lights and tall buildings come to mind. But the lush greens of a manicured lawn? That's something one can only dream of having in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world.
Yet this is exactly what architects Steve Blatz and Antonio Pio Saracino achieved with a penthouse loft located in the heart of Manhattan and one of New York City's trendiest neighbourhoods, TriBeCa.
Working according to their client's request for "a place that would be unique, have an abundance of outdoor space and be suitable for entertaining as well as for quiet contemplation", the designers set out to "create an urban, modern, sophisticated Manhattan apartment filtered with nature against the views of the chaotic urban jungle of New York City".
"We wanted to create a unique apartment that would express the dichotomy today in Manhattan - where the distinctions between indoor and outdoor spaces are blurring with nature, and vice versa," the designers say.
To bring their vision to life, a complete reorganisation of the penthouse space was required.
"Contrary to what most people would do," Blatz says, "we actually reduced the space inside to maximize the outdoor [area] and create a really wonderful relationship between the two."
It was no easy feat. To accomplish their goal, the building envelope and all systems had to be completely redesigned to integrate a stringing connection to the outdoors, Saracino says.
Floor-to-ceiling windows were installed on the north and south elevations of the space, which reduced 400 sq ft of living space, but this loss in space is nothing compared to what the owner gained in ambience.
The floor plan was transformed to integrate a stronger connection to the outdoors by developing lush gardens split across two levels and adjacent to all the primary living spaces.
This is a stark contrast to the original shell of the space, which was "poorly designed and poorly built," Blatz recalls. "The primary views were barely visible."
The space was completely transformed. Downstairs, the designers built an open living, dining and kitchen area, while the upper level contains a den, a home office and three bedrooms. Both floors have plenty of outdoor area. The outdoor spaces are perfect for both hosting parties and finding quiet solitude, as requested by the owner.
For the designers, the courtyard is what makes the home special. "The courtyard brings natural light to the living area. It also serves as a showcase for a spiral staircase enmeshed in a mirror-polished stainless steel cocoon that [takes] guests to the roof consisting of a meadow, a lawn, a hot tub, and dining and gathering spaces," Saracino says. The perforated, polished surface of the cocoon acts as a mirror reflecting natural light into the living area, he adds.
A wooden deck on the roof provides areas for sunning and lounging, surrounded by wild flowers and spectacular views. The owner and his friends can kick back and relax in the hot tub while enjoying views of the Big Apple.
In addition, the stunning views of plush greens set against Manhattan's skyscrapers can be seen throughout the penthouse. Blatz and Saracino designed the space, so that the primary rooms face the gardens, offering a touch of nature in contrast to the urban jungle. At night, this experience is heightened as the night sky is lit up by the city's flickering lights.
Careful consideration was placed into furnishings to allow the owner to enjoy every moment of his unique backdrop. "We designed all interior furnishings and finishes along with the outdoor spaces," Saracino says. Artful mixes of vintage, contemporary and custom pieces which share a streamlined masculine sensibility are placed throughout the home. In the living area, Rodolfo Dordoni sofas flank a cocktail table with a jigsaw puzzle top. In the den, which was converted out of two bedrooms, a Serge Mouille swing arm lamp extends from the wall to illuminate Jeffrey Bernett tub chairs on swivel bases.
The designers also pay tribute to the bustling neighbourhood. Before its modern-day glory as a fashionable and desirable neighbourhood with many celebrity residents, TriBeCa was a thriving industrial base in the late 19th century. In reference to this, in places such as the dining area, horizontal slot windows strategically frame the skyline, along with water towers and other charmingly gritty elements on the roof, which helps create a "greater sense of being in TriBeCa", Blatz says.
The designers kept the space flowing and beautifully clean by incorporating structural cores that hid stairs, the pantry, bike storage, laundry and powder rooms, and mechanical rooms. To reflect TriBeCa's industrial vibes, these constructs are covered with hand-painted zinc panels. This design solution - what the duo call "volumes" - is testament to their careful yet creative design eye. "The two volumes are complemented by hand-rubbed walnut millwork throughout, and they act as the functional elements in the overall space and are meant to create a fluidity of movement around them, interconnecting the spaces," Saracino explains. "The zinc [panels] add an urban, artisanal warmth to the space while also giving a sense of curiosity to the space beyond. The overall design of the rooms circulates fluidly around these volumes."
For the designers, the fluidity is "a younger way of dealing with space" and mirrors their design aesthetics. With their approach, they've broken stereotypes of what one would imagine for the Big Apple through their determination to create something extraordinary: "We felt that creating lush green spaces in a place like New York City would be the ultimate luxury."
Jason Carroll (pictured)
Steve Blatz and Antonio Pio Saracino
TriBeCa, New York City
5,000 sq ft of indoor space and 7,000 sq ft of outdoor space
"We love the apartment throughout. But if we were to choose one space, we definitely have a special affinity for the courtyard, which is the heart of the home connecting the primary living space with the roof garden above," the designers say.
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