Designer inside and out

The condominium at 111 Murray Street features marble slabs selected from Italy and Greece. The interior of a high-rise condominium in Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood.
The interior of a high-rise condominium in Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood.PHOTO: NYTIMES
The condominium at 111 Murray Street features marble slabs selected from Italy and Greece. The interior of a high-rise condominium in Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood.
The interior of a high-rise condominium in Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood.PHOTO: NYTIMES
The condominium at 111 Murray Street features marble slabs selected from Italy and Greece. The interior of a high-rise condominium in Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood.
The condominium at 111 Murray Street features marble slabs selected from Italy and Greece.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Developers are teaming top architects with famous interior designers to lure buyers amid intense competition

NEW YORK • A well-known architect is no longer a strong enough foundation to build up interest among property buyers.

But, in the early 2000s, having a celebrated international architect design a new residential development in Manhattan was enough to send buyers into a frenzy - regardless of what the building looked like on the inside.

One of the first such projects, a pair of towers in 173 and 176 Perry Street in the West Village, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier and completed in 2002, attracted celebrity buyers like fashion designer Calvin Klein, lifestyle guru Martha Stewart and actress Nicole Kidman.

The interiors of the apartments were delivered essentially raw, as buyers were invited to finish the units however they liked.

"Your luxury buyer would come in and basically rip out the interiors and have their own interior designer come in and redesign the space," said Ms Susan de Franca, president and chief executive of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing.

But, amid the intense competition for buyers now, interior design is front and centre.

"Over the years, the ultra-high-net-worth individual and luxury consumer became that much more discerning," Ms de Franca said.

"And we saw the desire for extraordinary interior design to complement the architecture."

Prominent interior designers - whose names are familiar to readers of magazines like Architectural Digest and Elle Decor and who previously specialised in custom homes for private clients - are now designing the interiors of large-scale, multi-unit buildings using the kind of exotic materials, finishes and details once reserved for the most bespoke homes.

Such is the case in 111 Murray Street, a 157-unit condominium tower in Tribeca. The building was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, but the lobby and amenity spaces were designed by Rockwell Group, the outdoor spaces were created by Hollander Design Landscape Architects, and the individual apartments were worked on by Mr David Mann, founder of MR Architecture + Decor.

When Mr Mann, who has designed homes for art collectors and boutiques for fashion brands like Lanvin, Dior and J. Mendel, first met the developers, "one of the things I said was: 'The kind of people who buy in these buildings are my clients'", he recalled. "I know the things they like and don't like."

He and his team reconfigured the apartment layouts the architects had given them for all the units to make them as gracious as possible.

They also travelled to Greece and Italy to select marble slabs from quarries and direct the production of millwork.

At 40 Bleecker Street, a 61-unit condo designed by Rawlings Architects, Broad Street Development was homing in on a competitive edge when it hired Mr Ryan Korban to design the indoor space.

Mr Korban, 34, is a buzz-generating interior designer whose projects include fashion designer Alexander Wang's apartment and Balenciaga stores.

As this was his first multi-unit residential project, he said: "I thought I would just take all the things that I've loved over the years and that I would want to live with.

"I want people to look at this not just as a real-estate project, but also as a lifestyle, a home and a way of living."

Taste is subjective and no interiordesign scheme will be universally appealing.

To hedge their bets, some developers are also recruiting several designers to create a range of options.

But as more developers follow suit, building lavish interiors neutral enough to appeal to a broad group of buyers, it will become increasingly difficult to appear special.

"You want to do something that people have never seen before," Mr Korban said. "But then, there are only so many luxury materials."

Still, expect developers to push the boundaries to ensure that their condominiums stand the tallest among rivals.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2018, with the headline 'Designer inside and out'. Print Edition | Subscribe