March 4, 2015

In Situ Design Works on an Apartment in Chelsea's Jean Nouvel Building

In Situ Design Takes a Floating Sliver of White Space and Anchors it In the Vast Urban Landscape of Jean Nouvel's 100 11th Avenue in Chelsea.

by Nicole Haddad interior designer In Situ Design photographer Joshua McHugh

Near the heart of Chelsea-a neighborhood known for both its grit and glitz-stands 100 11th Avenue, well documented for its unique facades: a curved curtain wall of twinkling, tilted, irregularly shaped windows with opposing sides of black brick. One of the area's pioneering new luxury residential towers, it epitomizes Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel's mastery at designing structures that complement and reflect the surrounding landscape.

When a New Jersey-based couple purchased an 1,800-square-foot two-bedroom pied-à-terre in the building, they quickly realized that conceptually beautiful does not necessarily equal habitable. Determined to rectify this conundrum, they brought in husband-and-wife team Mason Wickham and Edwin Zawadzki of In Situ Design. "The layout was so shallow," says Wickham. "You walked in and you were immediately confronted with being defenestrated out the front of the apartment and into the Hudson River."

Since the apartment's central entry hallway opens up to a long, narrow curvilinear space with bent wings for the bedrooms on either side, In Situ first concentrated on turning the focus away from the apartment's floor-to-ceiling curtain wall of Mondrian-like windows overlooking the Hudson River. To do so, they created a layer of paneling throughout to reflect the geometry of the windows and instill a more omnidirectional feel; it also served to hide storage, art, and the living room's unsightly HVAC system. To stand up to the view's abandoned wharfs and riverfront landscape, the designers built in over-scale furniture in highly saturated colors the blinding light would not wash out. A built-in bench facing the living room keeps the path of circulation intact and adds another element of socialization. "Most spaces don't need to be totally controlled the way this space did, but you couldn't furnish this space, you just had to dominate it," says Zawadzki.

In the kitchen, the duo ripped out the original terrazzo island and replaced it with a "floating" island supported solely by a steel pole covered in a wood sleeve. Near it, they connected a 10-foot cantilevered dining table to a concrete column to add to the theme of a floating residence with anchored elements.

In the master bedroom, the pair devised a folding panel wall to partition the space and create a den-like area laden with color to absorb the light and allow for reading and the viewing of films. In both bedrooms, the designers played to the clients' love of France and England: custom headboards with removable linen covers, each silk screened with an apposite image by an Australian photographer, form postcards of a sort to the respective countries.

"We like to be able to walk into a place and understand that one group of minds had a coherent thought," says Wickham. "Nouvel is pretty taut, tectonic, and rational. That appealed to us. We used it as our direction and personalized the white space and the conceptual mess." Bravo!