A Triangular New York Apartment With a Cylindrical Bathroom Gets a Historically-Sensitive Overhaul

A stone’s throw from Union Square in New York City, a late 19th century garment industry building occupies a triangular slice of the city block. A notable example of Renaissance Revival architecture, the Robert Maynicke-designed building deservedly earned landmark status in 2019 with its classically ornamented facade and dual window-lined frontages.

Designed in 1899 by notable architect Robert Maynicke, the architecturally exemplary loft includes 14 double-hung windows which line the perimeter.

Inside, an uninspired full-floor apartment brimmed with potential, but was in need of a total redesign to fit the needs and lifestyle of the home’s current residents. The creative couple—a violinist and an entrepreneur—were eager to embrace the loft’s historic charms, but craved an improved layout that would accommodate many activities at once–like salon music recitals, entertaining, and working from home.

Flexibility was paramount in the apartment’s redesign. The new layout was configured as a series of volumes that can change and adapt based on the clients’ needs. The den can be kept open to the main living area, or closed off with sliding glass and metal doors.

Worrell Yeung leaned into the loft’s unique geometry with details such as the entryway bookcase and the directionality of the flooring’s installation. The bookcase—a custom metal fabrication finished in British matte gold—is a nod to the shifting grid of the New York City streets. The wood flooring—custom hand-finished Northern white oak from Madera—responds perpendicularly to the city grid and creates dynamic moments within the triangular space.

The couple tapped Brooklyn-based architecture firm Worrell Yeung for the renovation, and their first strategy was to remove walls and obstructions from the apartment’s perimeter. Freeing the perimeter would usher in light from the 14 double-hung windows that flanked the space, allowing the loft to feel more open, functional, and flexible. The original windows, which had been painted black and in poor condition, were replaced in kind and painted white to provide more cohesion.

Large format, 12-inch white oak floors help highlight and dramatize the scale of the apartment. “At the width we selected, you see such a beautiful grain expression,” says architect Max Worrell.

The Worrell Yeung team looked for ways to embrace the building’s unique geometry in their loft redesign. “The building itself is triangular shaped, so we worked hard to find a layout that mitigated these different geometries, while also subtly highlighting the differences,” says architect Max Worrell.

The architects turned to Madera for large-format white oak flooring as the benchmark for their material decisions and to enhance their overall design approach. With different hues and tones integrated throughout the home, it was critical that the wood selection blended in harmoniously, without competing.

“We knew that we wanted a really neutral, soft floor that wouldn’t dominate visually, but complement the other material selections in the space,” explains Worrell.

The Worrell Yeung team experimented with several layouts in the floor installation, ultimately choosing to lay the floors perpendicular to the city grid, which fronted the loft’s north facade.

“You get these really interesting moments at the entry and den where the geometries reconcile themselves,” says Worrell of the effect.

The flooring installation exaggerates the loft’s unusual geometry, creating visually interesting moments where the white oak planks reach a terminus at the home’s entry.

Amongst an elegant collage of marble, brass, and plaster, timber is central to the loft’s interior design, with wood surfaces featured prominently in the kitchen, den, and bedroom. “Wood is perhaps the most important for this particular project,” says Worrell of the material palette.

Interrupting the rigidity of the loft’s geometry are moments of relief through unexpected curves, including a powder room concealed within a cylindrical plaster volume. “We liked the idea of having some playful elements within the loft that juxtapose against the geometry of the building itself,” says Worrell.

The wide format and desaturated tone fit Worrell Yeung’s architectural vision for the historic transformation.

“Particularly for projects within historic structures, we like working from a library of classic, timeless materials to create something that is decidedly modern and new,” says Worrell. “These floors do that.”

The main bedroom in the open-concept loft offers welcome cohesion with the custom millwork of the primary bathroom. “It was important that everything work together and not feel like too much wood or too dark,” shares Worrell.

Marble, wood, and plaster converge to create a timeless symphony of materials. “Like all of our work, we are interested in using classic, natural materials, but detailing and articulating in a decidedly new and unexpected fashion,” Worrell says.

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