- Property: 930 Fifth Avenue
- Manager: Douglas Elliman Property Management
- Architect: Rosen Johnson Architects
- Location: New York City
- Scope Of Project: Renovation of a 1,390-square-foot residential lobby and restoration of the building's outdoor canopy
New York's Fifth Avenue is synonymous with high style: Cartier, Tiffany and Co., and Gucci line the area's bustling streets. Yet, one nearby Fifth Avenue co-op simply wasn't making the fashion cut.
The lobby of 930 Fifth Avenue—a classic 1940s Emery Roth building—hadn't been fully renovated in more than 20 years. A hodge-podge of furniture and finishing touches filled the dark, dingy space: dark green painted walls, floral wall coverings, heavy English-style furniture, and green threadbare carpeting.
“It [the lobby] was in very bad condition,” says Barbara Kohn Welsh, a board member at the co-op. “We really didn't know what design details were from what era.” The co-op board set up a five-member renovation committee and gave it two main goals: Add recessed lighting to brighten the dreary space, and replace carpeting in the lobby hallways with marble to match the flooring in the central space.
The board wanted to build on the space's strengths, like the existing stone floor, while maintaining the building's original Art Deco and classic feel, adds Paul Rosen, a principal at New York-based Rosen Johnson Architects. As Rosen and the renovation team explored the space, they discovered that the lobby had more strengths than met the eye.
Buried Treasure The team's exploration revealed several gems that had been covered up during the building's 60-year life span. Botticino marble was buried beneath drab floral wallpaper in the two elevator lobbies. Chandeliers and sconces had been painted over in black, which hid a luxurious brass finish. At the end of the corridors, warped wood paneling covered up two beautiful niches.
The findings extended to the building's exterior. On the outdoor canopy, the team discovered copper concealed underneath silver paint. “It's one of the few copper-clad marquees in the city,” says Rosen. “It's quite a treasure and really makes the building look very luxurious.”
These discoveries saved the budget-conscious board a good deal of money, says Rosen. For instance, refurbishing the chandeliers and sconces cost a quarter of the cost of new ones, assuming products of such high quality could even be found, he says. “There was so much there that was good,” he adds. “It was just a matter of clearing away all the bad things that had accrued over the years and sprucing all those things that were a little tired.”
To keep costs low, the team kept salvageable materials. Warped pieces from the wood paneling behind the main lobby's fireplace were replaced or puttied over, then refinished with faux bois (fake wood). The fireplace was updated with deco iron ends featuring nickel and bronze, which picked up the room's silver and gold color scheme. “If there's something of value in a project, you hold onto it, and you build around it,” Rosen says.
Treasure Hunt It's hard to believe the before-and-after photos of the lobby show the same space. The lobby now features black-and-white patterned marble flooring throughout the entire space; camel-color contemporary furniture; shiny brass chandeliers and sconces coupled with downlighting and accent lights; and, to complete the look, a custom oval carpet woven by Edward Fields.
Throughout the four-month renovation process, the co-op committee took a hands-on approach. The group went to showrooms to test out furniture, making sure pieces were comfortable and sturdy. Committee members hand-selected vases, flower arrangements, and even birch logs for the fireplace.
But selecting new finishes was only half the battle at this 40-unit co-op. The project team had to make sure residents were minimally affected by the construction work. Fortunately, the main space didn't require too much construction since the flooring was already in place, says Rosen. The team worked on one of the lobby's offshooting wings at a time, and residents used a back hallway to access the opposite side of the building. Mounted renderings of the finished lobby hung in the back hallway, keeping residents informed and excited.
Any inconvenience to the residents was worth it. “The lobby makes a huge difference,” says Kohn. “It's bright, it's cheerful, it's elegant.” Now that's the look of a Fifth Avenue address.