One of our favorite new designers from an otherwise unfortunately predictable ICFF this year came from Montgomery Design. Principle designer Andrew Montgomery first caught our eye on the tinyhouseblog a year ago with his pallet chair design, and we were delighted to see he was still designing, and slowly expanding his collection to include lighting. We love the unpretentious, simple lines of his furniture that seem to marry both an Americana approach with a modern, almost Bauhaus aesthetic.
Montgomery Design is based in Charlottesville, Virginia and was founded by Andrew Montgomery, a graduate of Virginia Tech’s architecture program. For more information, visit the website here, which exemplifies the progression the design firm is taking by displaying the products they are making in chronological order.
Here’s a taste of such designs:
The polished design of this sophisticated SoHo loft comes from our new favorite firm SPI Design. Based in LA, Sarah Shetter and Alison Palevsky founded SPI Design back in 2004 in an attempt to bring modern luxury in a livable way to urban dwellers. We love the clean lines mixed with quirky, comical touches. In this loft they have intentionally maintained the original industrial elements inherent in the space while also creating a warm, cozy, chic environment.
Our favorite details: the nicely curated photography on display, the color coded book shelf, the photo gallery hung above the sideboard in the dining/living room and the state-of-the art kitchen that is made from sustainable materials such as PaperStone counter-tops, FSC-certified cabinet base panels, and FSC-certified birch veneer cabinet fronts. And how great is the touch of regency-glamour in the bedroom? We love the mirrored side tables topped off with mercury glass lamps. The black and silver is perfectly playful, as is the rest of the space. Enjoy! For more information on this adorable design duo, visit their lovely website here.
Above, designers Sarah Shetter and Alison Palevsky.
In the style of beaux-arts architecture, the Cockcroft Building (today known as the Croft Building) was built in 1905 as office space. Nassau Street was a central hub for major headquarters such as, the New York Times, Western Union Telegraphs and most notably as the “Stamp District”. In the 1920s, stamp collecting became very popular and with dozens of stamp and coin dealers along its short length. The book titled Nassau Street written in the 1960’s by Hermain Herst Jr. also describes the “golden age” of stamp collecting during this time. The building remained an office space until 2004 when the Financial District became a residential destination. The building facade remained as originally built and the interior spaces were converted into lofts.
In comes Sarah Magness, the worldly interior designer behind the new Manhattan-based firm Magness Design. She and her husband, Rob Magness, designer and founder of Grown & Sewn, reside in this refurbished, light-filled space that they have appointed with a mix of modern furnishings and organic accessories. We love the subtle feminine touches like the white, lacy bedroom and delicate glass vases on the dining room table, juxtaposed with the industrial black column in the middle of the living room. The casually elegant space exemplifies nicely the livability of a commercial-to-residential conversion.
Photographer Anita Calero migrated to West Chelsea long before the current stampede of millionaires. Back in the 1990s, she rented a 2,000-square-foot loft in an artists’ condominium, which she then bought and began to reconfigure. Calero knocked wide doorways into several rooms, including the new eat-in kitchen with its major appliances carefully hidden from the adjacent spaces. The dining table and chairs are lightly restored Jean Prouvé “standard chairs,” with a faux-coral chandelier above (Calero frequents furniture dealers and flea markets). Of course, this kind of archaeology isn’t possible in the ultra-luxury apartments rising around Calero’s building. We especially love how she has embraced the older elements of the space.
Photography by Anita Calero/GMAimages.com and Jonny Valiant
This fall we hit quite a few Loft Tour’s across the country. The latest hot loft community we previewed is Printers Row in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood hosted by the South Loop Neighbors on Sunday, October 18th. What was Chicago’s printing hub has became the first converted commercial district to now historic residential buildings. This transformation began in 1979 and has evolved ever since. The slow growth has allowed the area to mature, turning Dearborn St. into a main vain of restaurants, bars, and shops. For the pioneers, this is a proud opportunity to show off what they have known about the landmark district all along. Here are some of them. . .
Dearborn St. toward Dearborn Station
New Franklin Building “Memories of Chicago”
Peterson Lofts “Bestiary”
- Donohue Building “Enchanted World”
Donohue Building “Vitality of Art”
Donohue Building “Rock’ n Roll Jewel Box”
- Donohue Building “Enchanted World”
For the past ten years, behind the brick walls of an industrial building in the Irving Park section of Chicago, the Grammy Award-winning, genre-bending Wilco, and many of their musical guests, have been not-so-quietly making music.
According to Jason Tobias, the band’s tour manager, who also handles the Wilco Loft, “Not a lot of people know where it is exactly. The neighborhood allows the Loft to keep a low profile, which is essentially the desired effect. A few die-hard fans know and have been pretty cool with keeping it the secret it is intended to be.”
Anyone with a DVD player, however, can go inside the Wilco Loft—it served as the backdrop for Sam Jones’s 2002 documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, filmed during the tumultuous production of the band’s near-mythic album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. That album, famously dropped by the band’s label for being “uncommercial,” went on to become Wilco’s biggest commercial success. So, it’s no wonder the band continues to record there. Frontman Jeff Tweedy invites local and like-minded musicians to share the space’s ability to produce incredible sound.
Just last year, musician Andrew Bird spent four days recording at the Loft. He spent the entire first day arranging the studio space just to get the right violin sound. Using microphones placed around the room, he was able to pick up the acoustics of his violin as well as the sound of the amps bouncing off the walls. The sixty-plus guitars sitting around the room all hummed along, as the vibrations from everything else shook and resonated the steel strings, adding even more texture to the sound. The Loft is, essentially, an instrument of its own.
Somehow getting the strings of 60 guitars to vibrate together, without ever touching them, might seem fantastical, but the Loft’s “brick box” layout allows for such playful effects. “The stairwell, elevator, and bathroom have all been utilized for specific sounds while recording,” says Tobias. Grocery-carrying neighbors have been known to take the stairs when Wilco is recording in the elevator.
So the building itself actually shapes the recording? Yes and no, answers Tobias. “We have built out some things here and there to make it a bit more functional for recording, but most of the uniqueness comes from the gear.”
Forget bric-a-brac; Wilco’s “gear” crowds every inch of the space—pianos, keyboards, sound boards, guitars, amps (new and old) fight for elbow room over a mishmash of traditional Oriental rugs. A row of communal bunk beds lines one end of the room, perfect for creative catnaps or to houseguests before and after tours, but no one sleeps there on a regular basis.
Although categorized as a live/work space, the Loft is conveniently within walking distance from where Tweedy lives, so the space is mostly work.
While many musicians choose to set up shop in a living room, bedroom, or basement because of a lack of other options, Wilco’s decision to create music in their own self-sufficient live/work space has definitely worked in the band’s favor.
And why not take the reins of their own recording? Tweedy and his bandmates know how much recording studio fees add to the unnecessary pressure to make every minute in a rented studio count. The purchase of the Wilco Loft was not just a stroke of creative genius, but a wise economical move. Turns out Tweedy and his fellow Wilco members are also very shrewd businessmen.
Having access to one’s own studio also changes the entire process of creating an album, notes Tweedy. With an extended period of time for the recording process, each member of the band has that much more time to experiment with the band’s museum-quality collection of interesting and ultra-rare instruments.
Feel like creating bold imagery out of raw sound, as the band did on A Ghost Is Born? Alter the levels with an MCI soundboard. Want to capture a shift of tone with lyrics like “she begs me/ not to hit her”? Reach for that rare 1965 Fender Jazzmaster—or experiment by being less “experimental,” as they did with their 2007 release, Sky Blue Sky. “From old radios, classic amps, posters, vintage recording equipment, hundreds of new and vintage guitars and drums, [the Loft] is basically a candy store for musicians,” notes Tobias.
The variety of items used to produce and distort sound is fitting, because, as Tweedy explains, “the nature of my musical interest is to be pretty curious and to shift.” Just like the everchanging, unintentional design of the Wilco Loft itself.
“The space is constantly evolving,” says Tobias. “During the ‘Yankee period’ things felt open and spacious, and now things are a lot more condensed, due to acquisitions. If something needs to be moved or set up in a specific place, something else needs to be moved in order to accommodate it. It’s a constant challenge to make it spacious, organized, and functional.” Wilco (the album), the band’s seventh album (released on Nonesuch Records), includes a track called “You And I,” featuring Canadian chanteuse Feist, that was recorded entirely in the space. This time around, the band was able to truly “sculptthe sound” according to Tweedy. Turns out the seventh member of Wilco is the Irving Park Loft itself.
Story by Caroline Henley
Photography by Charles Harris
The Vianese architect Alexander Loebell proves it’s not impossible to raise a family in a loft.
Photography by Christopher Theurer
Story by Sherry Jo Williams
Photography by Jonas Briels
Amsterdam is a petite but powerful magnet for travellers of every stripe – be they hippies seeking out green-stickered coffee shops or the cultured, craving Van Gogh and Vermeer—or vice versa. To a visitor, the city’s incongruity of the traditional and the avant-garde is clearly evident. To a local, it’s relished like a good pipe.
Even A’dam’s preferred modes of transportation reflect this sense of cultural democracy. Whereas cars outnumber bikes in American cities, the reverse is true in this shortlisted candidate for “European Green Capital 2010.”
So, to travel like a denizen, rent a bicycle, lease an electric bike-taxi, or take advantage of the world-class public transportation system and hop on a tram, bus, metro, or ferry. At least one serpentine cruise along the canals is mandatory.
Near Centraal Station, you’ll find The 9 Straatjes, a suite of cozy, but bustling streets that almost magically become elaborate bridges that meander over sudden canals. It’s here that quintessential Dutch contemporary designs can be found. Many of the shops along these cobblestone roads are teeming with opportunity, but ➋ The Frozen Fountain is a definite winner. More gallery than shop, its mix of limited-edition furniture, fabrics, rugs, and accessories, is often commissioned from Dutch masters such as Hella Jongerius and Piet Hein Eek. Paul Koeleman, a prominent book and graphic designer says, “Frozen Fountain’s commitment to Dutch artisans, both known and emerging, is invaluable.”
After roaming through this chic neighborhood, take a moment to pause at ➌ Droog, the dramatically appointed headquarters of the powerful design brand. In a refurbished three-story structure which dates back to 1641, passionate fans of 21st-Century design can experience the infamous “Chest of Drawers” by Tejo Remy or Marcel Wanders’ “Knotted Chair.”
Another inspiring example of recycled architecture is ➑ Sprmrkt. LoftLife’s other A’dam expert, Marcel Schreuder from Springtime design (an international firm with clients ranging from Coca-Cola to Nike), loves this place. “The name is a clever abbreviation from its previous incarnation as a supermarket,” explains Shreuder. Not far from the 9 Straatjes, SPRMRKT mixes furniture and fashion from local designers with an impressive bookstore stocked with publications like vintage Domus magazines, plus an inviting café.
Surrounding the 9 Straatjes is the much larger Jordaan district. Built in the 1600s, it was established as central housing for the workers of this rapidly expanding city. Strolling through The Jordaan, you’ll find a broad menu of shopping options.
The major must-see is ➐ Jessica Padt’s marvelous upholstery workshop and showroom. Her success hinges on an impressive assortment: from work by Kvadrat Maharam to the unique, vintage textiles she’s found. She welcomes “classic to modern, retro to kitsch” pieces and specialises in Artifort (an important Dutch upholstery label from the 60s). Given the lean global economy, there’s been a newfound appreciation for her refreshing heirlooms that are more than reasonably priced. Koeleman is an unabashed fan of Jessica Padt’s studio and her skills, calling her “an indispensable asset.”
At the northern tip of The Jordaan, stands the distinguished ➒ Westerhuis. Founded by design icon, Marcel Wanders, this former schoolhouse is now a hive of activity with the moooia prominent gallery showcased on the ground floor, firms specializing in art and culture throughout, and The Hub, an open-plan space on the top floor with temporary desks, internet access, and a library. For those who skipped “Dutch Design 101,” Rietveld’s revolutionary red and blue lacquered lounge chair in the 1920s established the Netherlands as a leader in the world of design, and The Westerhuis is further proof that this trend is alive and kicking.
If you’re into the vintage look, check out ➍ Anno for exceptional late 20th-Century furnishings. Our experts, Koeleman and Schreuder, both love Anno’s sexy 60s upholstery by Pierre Paulin. Anno also carry 70s pieces from Magis, as well as current labels like Kartell, and Dutch super-star, ARP, known for their beautifully executed wooden tables and seating, a natural choice for any sparse space.
Heading south to the Museumplein, it’s impossible to miss The Stedelijk, “the MoMA of Holland.” Established in 1895, renovations to this grand old building are expected to be completed December 2009. Until then, with typical Dutch resourcefulness, a portable initiative is touring the city via pre-fab construction cabins. Called ➊ “Stedelijk Goes to Town” these newsstand-sized mobile units keep the museum’s collection available by housing temporary art exhibitions and performances.
Next to investigate is De Pijp, a quaint area with a vibrant scene. Like its neighboring ’hoods, De Pijp is a study in contradictions. Juxtaposing Amsterdam’s charm with the super-hip is ➓ Sid Lee Collective, an internatio nal creative agency focused on communications and branding. The Collective sports an expansive gallery, boutique, and café, ideal for those hungry for design or food. As Koeleman points out: “It’s great—music, art, cuisine, and in my neighborhood!”
Nearby is the popular ➎ Vintage Home, a highly recommended high-end source of furnishings from Aalto to Eames, plus surprises from the 30s to 80s. Constantly changing the look of the showroom, the founder is eager to display these important classics in a comfy setting. It’s a great place to treat yourself to an Aldo van den Nieuwelaar collectible, a 70s Grundig hi-fi speaker, or a 60s Saarinen marble table.
Before leaving the De Pijp—or Amsterdam for that matter, all sightseers must explore at least one of the dozens of specialty outdoor markets. The Albert Cuyp Market is the largest and most well known of the open-air bazaars around town and is conveniently open six days a week. Packed with a lively mix of antiques, Asian imports, and obligatory bric-a-brac, the Albert Cuyp Market is also well stocked with fresh, local food purveyors.
Both Schreuder and Koeleman insist that any guide to this unique city is incomplete without a suggested walk through the transitional neighborhood of KNSM Eiland. Here, you’ll discover a real prize, ➏ The Pols Potten Winkel (winkel=shop), a mixture of private label and top name furniture and products. Pols Potten pride themselves on selling handmade goods that are “subtle, innovative, with a hint of quirkiness,” in other words, the epitome of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam still sits squarely on the shoulders of sturdy dikes, technically below sea level, but obviously well above the common ground in architecture, interiors, and innovation. A visit to the capital of the Netherlands, for the ﬁrst or ﬁftieth time, is guaranteed to satisfy the most blasé urbanite. The wise and weathered Dutch still offer the fruit of 400 years of savvy experience and international trade, plus the bonus of world-class designers from the last ten years. And all are equally welcome to explore Amsterdam’s notorious neighborhoods, share its Old World warmth, and revel in the future projected by its rich design.
Q & A by Erin Ryder
Portrait by Tom Ackerman
Interior Photography by Susan Gilmore
LOFTLIFE: We loved your space at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House. Tell us about the vision you had, to keep it cohesive. Were you trying to keep the flow between the other designers in the house or did you have your own singular vision?
ANDREW FLESHER: I just had my own vision. That’s one of the great things about a show house. It’s similar to doing your own house in that you just don’t have any limitations. Nobody’s going to say, “You can’t do that.” When I designed the space for Kips Bay, the His master bathroom, the way I thought about it was: How would I like that space for myself. And basically that’s what I did; I created a bathroom that I would like.
LL: Your firm, Gunkelman Flesher, now has offices in New York and Minneapolis. Do you see a change in the taste of your clients from city to city?
ANDREW: Yeah, I think that people in Minneapolis are more conservative than people in New York. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do some work in New York, because I felt creatively I needed a change, I needed to push myself a little further. And I didn’t feel like I was doing that so much in Minneapolis.
LL: How long ago was that?
ANDREW: That was just a year ago.
LL: Have you done any commercial spaces in New York yet?
ANDREW: I’ve been mostly residential. And you know, I would say probably 95% of my business is residential . I’d love to do restaurants, or a hotel!
LL: As you know, your gorgeous white loft back in Minneapolis got a lot of attention when we first posted pictures of it on our website. What was your thought process?
ANDREW: Well, I love white. I always wanted to do a place that had white floors, like a gallery space that shows objects really well. I was living in a conversion loft: brick walls, raw. There was a building going up down the street, so I checked it out. I found the floor plan really great, with 60 feet of glass across the front, floor to ceiling. I found the challenge of dividing the space and creating something in a glass cube very interesting. It was also part of my love of architecture, Mies’ Farnsworth House, Philip Johnson’s Glass House, that kind of thing. I always wanted to try it. So I did.
LL: Aside from the idea of mirroring a gallery space, tell us more about why white is your palette of choice.
ANDREW: It’s so pure. It’s a place for your eye to rest, I think. Your eye doesn’t have to break anything apart in a white space, it gives you this great backdrop to put pieces in that act as sculpture. Furniture in a white space is almost like art and that was my concept. I wanted a place to showcase the things I had collected over the years.
LL: Besides the obvious space challenge in New York, how was your experience transitioning to your home in Tribeca?
ANDREW: I think the great thing about New York is that there’s such a vast supply of resources—there’s really no reason why your place has to look like anybody else’s place! You can personalize your home so easily because there’s so much available.
LL: How did you get into interior design?
ANDREW: When I was a kid I always thought I would be an architect. I used to love to study house plans, and I’d always ask my mom and dad to buy me magazines. Then, I got into college and studied architecture for three years: It was more engineering, calculus, and physics . So, I switched; I just felt like interior design was much more for me, more creative and less about science and just more about creativity.
LL: What are the biggest challenges with keeping to a minimalist aesthetic, while also keeping a space functional for years to come?
ANDREW: Two things: You have to listen to your clients and observe how they live. I think sometimes clients don’t realize they need something to function. When I meet with clients, I like to ask them, “how do you live?” Rather than, “how tall do you want this vanity to be?” Or “How much storage space do you need in your kitchen?” Instead I ask, “How do you want your house to feel?” (They can generally) explain how they want it to feel, but they don’t know how they want it to look and that’s why they’ve hired me. So, you know, you want to be practical. You want to listen to how they use their house and how they live.
I always like to challenge my clients a little bit, but not beyond their comfort level. Because at the end of the day, it’s really my client’s house. It’s not mine; I’m not going to live there. But I want to really guide them to make the right decisions, so, that they are pleased with how it looks and how it functions when we’re done.
LL: Who, what, or where are your greatest sources of inspiration?
ANDREW: The way I design is I put a collection of pieces together. I love individual pieces for their own beauty, things that are classic and stand on their own. And then I love the combination of things so that there’s some surprise, some tension, some juxtaposition between materials, styles, and level of formality. I think it’s so important to know what’s happened in the past, to take that, and then use it in a new way. So it’s not that you want to copy anything or that you want to recreate something that’s done before, but you can’t really go forward unless you know what’s happened in the past. And I do think that all design, and all new design, is really an evolution of what’s happened in the past.
LL: Generally speaking, have you found that design sensibility is changing during this difficult financial environment?
ANDREW: I think that people are wanting good pieces that are going to last. The state of the world today is really influencing everybody. I think that people are just more thoughtful consumers then they used to be because (of this). One of the things that is interesting, I think, is what happened in the financial world last year, it has taken the pressure off of people to have to have the latest, the newest object.
LL: With the growth of LEED-certified buildings, and the quickly growing sustainable products (from fabric to paint) available to consumers, do you feel the need to incorporate more “green”?
ANDREW: Yes. People are definitely interested in it and in fact, we just won an award for a Gold LEED certified building that we did in Minneapolis. It was actually a beautiful, classical building, originally built as a library, and turned into a family foundation office. My thought about the whole “green” movement and the need to be thoughtful of the environment is very important to me. Yet, there’s also a balance between the environment being green and it also being beautiful, because I don’t believe in throwing away good design just at the cost of, or just for the sake of, being “green.” I’m looking forward to the future when we have really great products that we can use without compromising.
LL: So, let’s run through some of you “favorites” of the moment. How about color?
ANDREW: Always white.
ANDREW: I think I have to say Duane Antiques. They have a great eye, I think.
ANDREW: You know, I love white peonies, not pink, but white peonies.
ANDREW: I love American Clay’s color I used in the room at the Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse. Their sugarloaf white that was used on the walls has a really nice warm color, and it has such nice depth and dimension. I’m going to say that’s probably my new favorite. I am going to use it in a 12,000-sq-ft ski in/ski out project I’m doing in Deer Valley, Utah. We’re going to use it everywhere.
ANDREW: I love our stationary that we have for Gunkelmen Flescher because it’s very classic. It’s white, it’s embossed, and it has a shiny silver foil on the edge. Very clean. I use it all the time.
ANDREW: Wallpaper. I’m using a lot of grass cloths. I like grass cloths like Donghia. They make the most beautiful paper with back linens that’s very coarse. And I use it all the time. When you use it in your house, it’s almost like being in a gallery. And it makes a perfect backdrop for art and everything else.
LL: Accent piece?
ANDREW: An accent piece, how about a table I designed? It’s a little chrome, glass, and linen-wrapped drinks table that I use a lot with my clients.
ANDREW: Oh Mark Rothko is my all-time favorite. Mark Rothko and Joseph Albert.
LL: Is there any other news or projects you’d like to update us on?
ANDREW: I’ve been working on a furniture line that I’d like to shop around to see if somebody would like to manufacture it. So that’s sort of in the front of my head a lot. I think I’d like to get into some product design.
Tribute Lofts in Atlanta sets the scene for Emanuel, Christina, and Audruis (Click Models) as they showcase hot fashion in this very hot loft. Furnishings by BoConcept. For more information on the fashion, subscribe to receive our 2009 Spring issue.
For more information about the space above, please visit Tribute Lofts website.