Bendix Anderson in Bricks & Bucks on November 27, 2019
Why does the new lobby at 401 East 65th Street look more expensive than it is? “The stone and expensive elements are at key focal points,” explains Susan Lauren, principal of Lauren Interior Design.
The lobby makeover is one of the last items on a long capital projects the co-op board has undertaken in recent years. The board had already installed a new roof, a new heating system, a new gym, and new elevators. The $400,000 lobby renovation was paid for with money raised for those earlier capital projects, including an assessment of $50 to $75 a month per unit that shareholders paid for roughly three years, ending in 2018.
“We have been able to fund the lobby renovation without taking on additional debt,” says Steve Certilman, the head of the design committee for the white-brick building, built in 1962 on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
To include the residents in what can be one of the most controversial capital projects – everyone uses the lobby, after all, and everyone has an aesthetic opinion – the board held an open meeting in early 2018. Residents of the 137-unit building squeezed into the 1,000-square-foot lobby, where easels displayed large renderings of the proposed redesign. The shareholders approved – never a sure bet. Construction started in May and was complete three months later.
The old lobby was a jumble of different colors and textures. “Every wall was covered with a very strong material,” says Lauren. “I like contrast, but it was too much.”
The floor was a deep green terrazzo. White marble with heavy striations covered most of the walls, with panels of reddish wood behind the doorman’s stand, along with a large, flat-screen video display for package notifications. The red and black granite of the building facade also covered the walls on both sides of the vestibule and continued into the lobby.
Changing the green terrazzo was the most important decision in the redesign. “Some board members said we should keep the floor,” says Lauren, noting that it could have lasted for decades without wearing out. “Terrazzo is the most durable material you are going to find… a composite of stone glued together with epoxy.”
But replacing the floor gave the co-op board more design options. “We would have had to design the whole lobby around [the terrazzo floor],” says Certilman. The new marble floor is durable, but much less visually dominant than the terrazzo.
The next challenge was the drop ceiling. “The ceiling had felt really low,” says Lauren. Above the drop ceiling she found about a foot-and-a-half of empty space. “We probed it,” she says. “We literally took a ladder with a flashlight and drilled holes to see what was in there.”
The redesign also lessens the visual impact of a column next to the old doorman’s stand. “No one wants a free-standing column in the middle of the lobby,” says Lauren. Now the load-bearing column is part of a new, larger doorman’s desk. Black and white striped marble – one of the most visually striking materials in the new lobby – covers the column and runs across the top and down the side of the desk. The lush material of the stone and the extra bulk of the column make the doorman’s desk one of the most prominent parts of the lobby – as it should be.
Members of the co-op board loved the marble of the doorman’s station so much they decided to include more of the striking black and white stone at the far end of the lobby, on the wall around the elevator doors. The rest of the lobby walls are covered with marble in a more calming coloration – the stoneyard calls it “Siberian Sunset.”
And now for the rarest of verdicts on a lobby redesign: “Our constituency,” says Certilman, “is overwhelmingly happy with the outcome.”
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – CONTRACTOR: Alban Construction. DESIGNER: Lauren Interior Design.
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