Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Gramercy Starck Condo Opening


It was May Day in New York City and the largest crowd gathering wasn't in Union Square to protest immigration issues. No, it seemed the real crowds were brokers, celebrities, and gawkers galore crowding to get in to the newly opened showroom for Phillippe Starck's new creation "Gramercy", a condo going up on 23rd Street between First and Second Avenues.
Mr. Starck, a much acclaimed French architect and designer of all forms extraordinaire, certainly puts his unique stamp on the project. His design approach is one of over sized chandeliers, over sized picture frames, and much use of black and white with unexpected contrasting bright colors. He uses minimalism to contrast against over sized ordinary yet elegant objects. What this translates to is a large mainly white lobby with very little in it with the exception of a striking 7 foot tall black chandelier which looks like a lampshade with some sort of renaissance era print on the inside, a 10 foot picture frame, a couple of unusual black armchairs, and on orb-like white leather seating area. Ok, so, I'm a guy who likes prewar elegance, Brooks Brothers suits and Khakis. I will readily admit, call me crusty, that I just don't get it. At the same time, that is the point, as Starck says in both the presentation and the literature, he is not trying to please everyone, "I just try to please my tribe, my friends".
What I do "get" in this new development is that it is a truly exceptional building as a whole, one that was clearly thought out and is exceptional in many ways. I was most impressed by the studio, 2 and 3 bedrooms layouts, while I thought that there were a number of 1 bedrooms that seemed a bit narrow.
What struck me first about the apartment models were the bathrooms, which were absolutely gorgeous. The lines are so clean and symmetrical they exude absolute luxury and cleanliness. These lines frame a Starck model over sized soaking tub which calls to you. Both the shower and the toilet are in enclosed in matching glass doors to the left and right of the tub, while matching bowl sinks and vanities are on your left and right in the foreground.
Another brilliant feature is that you choose between 3 groups of finishes for the apartment. There is the "Classic" finish which features dark oak floors, walnut finishes, and shades of Pale grey. The "Culture" finishes are more modern, and my favorite, the "Nature" collection which uses lighter wood floors and cabinets and blond limestone in the bath. The choice really opens options for people who might otherwise see the project and eliminate it based on a certain finish which they may not like. Third, I am very impressed with the actual look of the building. Floor to ceiling windows, and numerous setbacks make for both a pleasant look and abundant outdoor space options for people to choose from. I didn't mention the kitchen. The kitchens feature top of the line appliances (Sub Zero fridge, Meile oven and range) and are all largely hidden by attractive wood cabinets. Again, the lines are absolutely crisp and clean. This is not a "look at me" kitchen and may not please the obsessive chef, but they are meant to be unobtrusive and they are quite functional and pleasing to the eye.
Incredibly, in my opinion, the prices for these apartments start at $1000/foot with very low common charges and taxes. It would seem to me that this building is clearly headed to be blown out quickly. There were over 1000 people on the wait list for an appointment, and although they open on the May 4th, they are already booked out 2 weeks. I consider myself lucky that I managed to get a couple of appointments for the 10th, I only hope that there is still a wide selection and that they haven't amended prices up in the first week..
To sum it up- Vive Le Starck, whether you get it or just wish you did.

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