Ronda Kaysen in Board Operations on August 8, 2013
The building's lobby was woefully out of date, and board members decided that the space had stylistically lost its way. The best remedy was to restore it to its late Art Deco / Art Moderne style, a decision that would ultimately save the building money, as it would not require any structural renovations.
"The [idea] was to bring the lobby back to its original style," says Brash. Rather than install new floors, the building polished and restored the terrazzo floor. They replaced the faux stone wallpaper in the vestibule, restored the wooden wall coverings in the lobby, and added recessed lighting to brighten gloomy corners. They replaced the outdated green furnishings with custom-made, commercial-grade furniture appropriate to the period.
The price tag for the job came to $150,000, the maximum amount the building was willing to spend. But, according to Brash, another nearby building spent more than $600,000 remodeling its lobby.
"Dumpy" is just one common loby problem for co-op and condo boards. Another is "mish-mash." When Josh Field became co-op board president of 165 East 72nd Street, he joined a board that wanted to restore the lobby of the mid-20th-century building, which had never been updated. "It was a hodgepodge; it didn't have that wonderful mid-century flavor," recalls Joel M. Ergas, president of Forbes-Ergas Design Associates, referring to the architectural and decor style Mid-Century Modern, popularized in the 1950s and '60. "Our whole focus was on bringing it back to a beautiful, elegant, mid-century style."
Field and the other members decided that a conservative approach — in Ergas's words, "refurbishing the original finishes and adding appropriate new wall finishes" — would be cheaper and, in the long run, more aesthetically appealing than a complete renovation. Forbes-Ergas refinished the checkerboard floors, replaced light fixtures with vertical chandeliers and custom sconces, rearranged artwork, and replaced the wall coverings.
"What we didn't want was one of these lobbies where they put in the wood paneling and the brass and it looks nice for a year and then it looks like every other building in the city," says Field.
And sometimes, the problem isn't the shareholders, but the board members. The Lamont, a co-op at 1717 East 18th Street in Brooklyn, hadn't had its lobby updated in more than 20 years and wallpaper was peeling from the walls. The demographics of the building had changed, with younger tenants who wanted their building to look fresh and appealing to buyers.
But the board had no interest in updating the common areas. So, five years ago, an entirely new board was voted in and the new members decided to redo the lobby, elevator cabs, and hallways, and build a community room. Designed by Marilyn Z. Sygrove, president of Sygrove Associates Design Group, the new common areas have a decidedly Mad Men look, says Samuel Thomas, president of the co-op board. In all, the project cost $350,000, and the building paid for it out of its reserve funds.
"There certainly was some tension," recalls Thomas. "But our fiduciary responsibility as a board is to look at the values of apartments, and this was something that needed to be done.
Photo courtesy Forbes-Ergas Design Associates; click to enlarge
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