Presidential Interior Design
Credit designers George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg with precise interpretation of their client’s mandate. Vikhran Chatwal, the 30ish scion of the family that owns this and a number of other hotel properties around town, envisioned a mixture of the avantgarde and the elegant for these suites, designated as marketing tools and harbingers of things to come. Chatwal had the foresight to grant Yabu Pushelberg both a clean slate and generous budget.
By now, it’s a well-established fact that most travelers seek something in addition to comfort as hotel guests. “They have experiential aspirations,” the design partners comment. “Ian Schrager was among the first to give them that, but even big companies like Starwood are beginning to get it.”
For Toronto-based Yabu and Pushelberg, their experience of New York is intimately connected with the art world. Thus, art in various media, one-off decorative pieces, plus elements of surprise were adapted as key components in the suites’ design schemes. “The use of rich finishes and soul-inspired details,” Pushelberg says, played prominent supporting roles.
Compact one-bedroom suites
The designers confronted relatively compact one-bedroom suites of 600 and 800 sq. ft. Ceilings were low at 8 ft. 3 in.; architectural amenities were non-existent. Because the suites could potentially be joined to create one rambling expanse, Yabu and Pushelberg sought visual similarities between them. But there is no matching. These are hip rooms with a low-key quality of humor.
In both suites, living rooms are crisp and white with seating from B&B Italia anchored by animal hide rugs. In one case, it’s stenciled pony skin; in the other, it’s goat skin. Other pieces exhibit a sense of discovery. Picked up on shopping excursions to Troy and Interieurs in Soho, they include a quirky coffee table of timber stumps, a leather and chrome rocking chair, a light sculpture resembling a cascade of paper Japanese lanterns, and wooden trays. “We went shopping much as we would for a home,” the designers say.
Bedrooms, in contrast, are described as “cocoon-like,” with dark walnut millwork figuring prominently in solutions. One bed has a complete surround of the richly-toned wood; for the other it is used as a less prominent headboard with built-in side tables. Walnut panels also front closets and form a divider between one of the bedrooms and its living room. Again Yabu and Pushelberg’s keen eyes combined the odd with the iconic. Saarinen’s Tulip table and Reitveld’s Zig-Zag chair are next to Troy’s “funhouse” mirror reflecting a skewed composition of the room’s white linen and walnut components. There are also a one-off nickel-plated table lamp, a reissued Parzinger lamp originally dating to the 1940s, and, of course, that spiked leather pouf. Annette Larsson’s backlit photographs are of body parts. According to the designers, they lend a certain touch of sensuality.
Bathrooms, Yabu and Pushelberg conclude, display a related take on “spare luxury.” Completely clad with Carrara marble, they are endowed with a distinctive architectural quality. Five-ft.-long freestanding counters with custom sinks plus intimate bathtub settings appear to be carved from blocks of the cream-colored stone.
This first phase of the President’s renovation was completed in six months for $1.1 million. The project’s remaining scope, slated for Fall 2001 completion, encompasses refurbishing the current key count of 334 rooms, plus renovation of lobby, restaurant and other public areas. Yabu Pushelberg is on the job.
In addition to George Yabu, creative director, and Glenn Pushelberg, managing partner, credits go to project manager Kevin Storey, designers Sanjit Manku and Andrew Kimber, plus the technical team of Paul Leung, Betty Cheung, Alex Edward, and Shane Park.