New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




Co-op Board Collaborates to Bring a Fusty Lobby Up to Date

New York City

Lobby renovation, co-op board, design professionals, design options.

The transformed entryway (top) and doorman's station (bottom) (images courtesy of Sygrove Associates Design Group).

April 25, 2023

As part of our ongoing Problem Solved series, Habitat spoke with Marilyn Sygrove, president of Sygrove Associates Design Group.

A dysfunctional layout. In many buildings, doorman stations were not necessarily next to the front door. So the first thing we try to do is coordinate our designs so that the doorman stations are in reasonably proximity to the door, as well as to the package space, which is critical.

At one building we’re working with, they have an entry door, then a vestibule, then a doorman station that’s in an awkward position in the lobby, around the corner from the entry door. The doorman either hung out at his station, which was away from the door, or he hung out in the vestibule so he could open the door for someone at the curb. Then he’d have to awkwardly go inside the building and announce the visitor from his desk or retrieve packages for the residents coming in. So it was just a really dysfunctional placement of his desk.

A blessing and a curse. They had a walk-in package closet. In our view, it’s wonderful to have that much space, but it’s bad for other things, including communications, service and a security presence in the lobby. Once the doorman goes into a package closet, he is lost, in essence, from view. And to us, that's not an optimum solution. So we looked at the lobby holistically and found that there was undiscovered, underutilized space. Through probes and inquiries, we were able to determine that we could actually convert that space into usable package storage, right within the lobby. And our solution was to create beautiful decorative doors so that you wouldn't even know that it was package space until the doorman opened the doors.

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A collaborative effort. When we’re hired, we survey the space and also get input from the board and/or the committee as to what their priorities are. I had already done a preliminary budget estimate to give them an idea of what the lobby would cost, including additional package space, a new desk, finishes and furnishings and, in this particular case, new sliding entry doors. So our designs were geared towards that original agreed-upon budget range.

We prepared three designs with three different options for locating the desk, how we would capture additional package space, how the new sliding entry doors would work with the vestibule and the secondary set of swing doors. There's a lot to it. We meet with them, we present the three schemes, and they will comment. They’ll say, "Gee, we love the layout of A, we like the style of B, but we love the color of C." And by the end of that meeting, which generally runs about an hour and a half to two hours, we're able to get a consensus as to their responses to our design. Then we’re able to finalize a design.

Look at the big picture. I think the most important thing is to have a design team take a look at your lobby holistically before you say, "Let's just do the desk. Let's just do the doors. Let's just do the floor or reupholster a sofa." Lobbies are generally large, and they are a very large investment. And we see them as a long-term investment. So the takeaway would be to take a good, hard look at your lobby and look at all of the key elements before making decisions. And plan for your investment to really pay off long term. I hope we hear from them in 20 to 25 years about a little tweaking here and there.

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