New York Times

New York Times – Adapting Design

August 4, 2005
By Stephen Treffinger

Q. How can I adapt details from the newest Richard Meier tower in Lower Manhattan to my home?

A. Unlike the apartments in Mr. Meier’s two buildings on Perry Street, which were sold raw, the ones at 165 Charles Street, in the West Village, are being sold finished, without furniture but with cabinets, bathrooms, kitchens and all fixtures in place. Mr. Meier designed the interiors, creating a look that brings to mind an art gallery crossed with a lavish yet comfortable penthouse.

Chocolate-brown flooring throughout – the first thing you notice (after the view) – prevents this large space from seeming sterile. “Wood floors give it a warmth that works well with the openness and transparency of the units, the way in which the wood extends out to the balcony,” Mr. Meier said. “It gives it a continuity of surface, and people can then put down carpet or rugs or whatever they want.”

The floors (except in the bathrooms) are wide-plank stained wenge, above. Wenge (pronounced WHEN-gay), imported from Africa, varies quite a bit in quality, finishing and cost. One New York remodeling company, MyHome (212-666-2888 or said it could provide and install wenge flooring for about $34 a square foot.

For the balconies, below right, Mr. Meier chose flooring made of ipe (pronounced EE-pay), a durable hardwood from South America. It is dense and weather-resistant and needs no stain (although a UV blocking sealant is recommended if you don’t want it to bleach in the sun). Ipe may sound exotic, but you may have already taken a stroll on it: the Atlantic City boardwalk, for example, is made of ipe. The raw material is about $5 a square foot; delivery and installation are extra. Information:

Mr. Meier, who designed the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, said he frequently uses “museum walls,” or ones lacking baseboards and molding, in residential spaces. Here, center right, he made striking use of them, including a quarter-inch gap between the floors and the walls, making them seem to float.

They get their smooth, seamless look from skim coating, or the layering of several thin applications of plaster. Mr. Meier hired the artisans who did the walls at the new Museum of Modern Art in New York, but your contractor should be able to arrange the same thing.

Mr. Meier’s kitchens and bathrooms gained their seamless quality from expanses of white Corian. I was surprised there wasn’t something more rarefied (read “quarried halfway around the world and shipped at great expense”) but, as Mr. Meier put it, “marble is too busy.” He also noted that Corian is easy to keep clean, “and whatever you put on it looks good.” He ordered a custom white, whiter than the stock one. Corian is priced from about $45 a square foot, installed; for information: (800) 426-7426 or

Questions about furnishings and décor may be sent by e-mail to [email protected]. Unpublished questions cannot be answered individually.