HABITAT

BOARD OPERATIONS

How the Art Deco Hallways Were Redone

Linda Connelly in Board Operations on April 10, 2018

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Hallways Redo 2

Shareholder comments led to a tweaking of the final choice for hallway carpets (above).

April 10, 2018

This article is a sequel to yesterday’s “The Making of a Dedicated Design Committee.” 

With our six member design committee in place – and with Fina Design Group signed up – we wasted no time establishing a set of objectives for the hallway makeover in our Art Deco co-op on Riverside Drive: 

• Elevate our hallways to a sophisticated design honoring our Art Deco heritage (constructed 1936) and notable Art Moderne features.

• Complement the lobby’s design scheme so the transition from public to private space would be seamless.

• Use environmentally responsible materials (LED fixtures, paints with little or no volatile organic compounds). 

When renovating the hallways, it had long been agreed by management that we would upgrade all code-related systems. Our goal was to integrate them into the redesign as unobtrusively as possible. We therefore tasked the Fina Design Group with: 

• Replacing emergency lighting in halls and stairwells.

• Installing new LED lighting on stairwell landings and staircases.

• Repositioning lighting and smoke detectors for optimal effectiveness.

• Upgrading wiring and relocating cable lines, as needed. 

The best work happens when creative people are left to create. Any designer can regurgitate what clients ask for; great designers show clients something better. With objectives already defined, I suggested that letting the designers do their job was a better use of our time and theirs. And it paid off. 

The Gang of Six, as I lovingly referred to our group, agreed that as often as the designers had things to show us, we would show up. We followed three simple rules: 

1. Everyone will be informed of a design meeting, but meetings will be held with or without a full complement.

2. We will not “hot react” to what’s presented. Feedback will be given orally and followed up in writing – after we have digested and discussed matters among ourselves.

3. In most cases, the majority ruled. The one exception was on time-sensitive issues where a three-person subcommittee was empowered to make the final call, if they all agreed. 

We all came with our own design prejudices and preferences, but we agreed to speak with one voice when we made presentations to our clients, the shareholders. Sometimes, like members of a jury, a single dissenting voice was so compelling the other five acceded to his or her opinion. Everyone’s passion for the project was evident. 

After months of meetings, two design schemes were presented to the shareholders, and we proceeded with a comprehensive survey. The option to vote against redoing the hallways, despite their extremely worn condition and outmoded color scheme, was still possible. Fortunately, a decisive majority favored one design option, but there was enough commentary about the value of the wallpaper color and carpet border to warrant minor tweaking. As everything was being custom-colored, it was easily handled with a new set of strike-offs. Addressing those concerns, we went back to the shareholders with a final set of design boards and a timetable.

During the 21-month process, we exchanged more than 1,000 emails, held 83 team meetings, installed half a dozen potential wallpapers, hosted a pair of shareholder presentations, and distributed dozens of update memos. Today our building has sophisticated hallways that reflect its Art Deco to  Art Moderne provenance and modern spirit. Beyond being refined and elegant – and a nice place to chat with a neighbor – our newly refurbished hallways have added value to the shareholders’ investment, which is a nice bonus for everyone. 

Boards should never underestimate the value of a dedicated committee.

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