March 6, 2015

Director Marcus Nispel's Live/Work Home

Director Marcus Nispel and his wife, Dyan, reinvent a former power substation into a live/work space of cinematic proportions

by Judith Nasatir photographer Costas Picadas architecture Asfour Guzy


As every house hunter knows, the hot mess that is the search for home is really all about hope made manifest. The goal? That eureka moment when, through some weird alchemy of light, spatial proportions, and materials, you know you've finally found it. Marcus Nispel-director of such feature films as "Conan the Barbarian", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and "Friday the 13th", as well as commercials and music videos-had that sensation the nanosecond he entered this five-story structure on Lafayette Street with a past almost two decades ago.

Nispel credits his wife, Dyan, with the discovery. At the time, he explains, they were looking for a place to live, work, and raise their children. As it became clear that their life would be bicoastal, they opted to proceed with the large-screen-scale renovation they had envisioned with architect Peter Guzy of New York-based Asfour Guzy. When they finished it twelve years later, Nispel says they decided that when they were not in New York they would make the ultra glamorous two-floor studio-with an indoor pool for underwater filming-available to "a select group of clients" for events and shoots, and the three-story residence as well, through Steven Halpern at Urban Compass.

So about that second-floor pool: it floated into the conversation because of the site's original function. Built in the 1890s as one of the city's first power substations, the old brick beauty was engineered to bear the enormous load of giant turbines stacked floor to ceiling throughout. Nispel recalled, "Our architect mentioned that we could have put a pool on about any level, that's how solid the structure is." The substation obsolesced when more economical forms of power distribution came on line, but its shell survived the years more or less intact, though decayed. In 1981, Max Protetch reclaimed the ground floor-a raw, 200-foot-long by 27-foot-high by 22-foot-wide expanse-for large-scale art installations and storage. At some point before 1996, when the Nispels purchased it, that length was halved.

The Nispels wanted to keep as much of the original industrial look as possible, so the vast brick walls remain raw, the vaulted ceilings still soar, and the copper pipes stand exposed behind protective glass panels rather than buried under drywall. Thanks to the sensitive renovation and evocative décor that combines contemporary pieces and antiques-including doors found in the south of France used to enclose a master suite that floats above the living/dining/entertaining area, as well as oversized mail-sorting and wine tables-plus found objects and movie memorabilia, there's not a bad angle anywhere. What could be better for a home, and for a home that's also in the movies?