Delson or Sherman
Monday, November 1st, 2010
When Delson or Sherman Architects was approached to overhaul a dated Chelsea loft, it didn't know how much its client would inspire the design. That client, a talented set designer, set the wheels of imagination turning in the architects' minds—trap doors, rotating bookcases, handles disguised as light-fixtures. Well, maybe not quite that elaborate, but the firm certainly took the theme of set design to heart and built a few surprises into the new loft.
The entry closet is hidden behind the owner's heirloom collection of Chinese screens, and pivoting bookcases in the library conceal a hidden Murphy bed. Elsewhere, rooms are defined by a central cube of zinc, which houses the fireplace, media equipment and a storage closet. Upstairs, a wall of fiber-optic tubes divides bedroom from bath, while the stairs themselves are made of glass, allowing light from the skylight above to shine through to the floor.
The initial goal of the project, completed in 2008, "was to remove the curvy walls and faux finishes of a bad 80’s renovation and transform the apartment (save the kitchen) into a live/work space for a lovely couple," says Jeff Sherman, partner at Delson or Sherman. "The difference in our approaches, though, made for some interesting challenges," Sherman says. "He naturally gravitated towards the dynamic functions of a stage set. But where sets are easy to move, architecture usually isn’t. Movable bookshelves, for example—we’ve all seen them in movies, but real books are heavy. If a real bookshelf needs to be smoothly and easily maneuvered a few thousand times over the lifetime of the apartment, you’ve got an interesting problem to solve."
Sherman cites the bookshelves as a major challenge, and focal point, in the redesign. To get the shelves to pivot and slide, the firm used two divergent ceiling tracks anchored to the roof beams. Each track is capable of supporting one end of the half-ton shelf wall, ultimately allowing it to be pulled through its choreography using just one hand.