March 19, 2017
Q&A with David Mann of MR Architecture + Decor
David Mann, the founding partner of a 40-person architecture and decor studio, talks about his first-ever multi-residential luxury design project, 21W20, thoughtful design, and so much more!
by New York Spaces
NYS: We are so excited to see the result of your first-ever multi-residential design project, 21W20 in the Flatiron District! What was that experience like?
David Mann: It was truly great working with Gale International, a Manhattan-headquartered international real estate investment and development company, who also happens to be the developer of the largest private real estate venture in history, the $35B Songdo International Business District. They are true visionaries. We accepted this project because of their commitment to produce more nuanced architecture. In the end, I think we are all proud of what this collaboration created.
NYS: We understand each of the 13 residences are incredibly luxurious. What materials and design approach did you take to each?
David Mann: We started with the idea of a luxury loft. These residences are more open than Upper East Side Manhattan apartments but more luxurious than industrial lofts. We employed a very subtle tone-on-tone grey palette composed of fine grained oak and bold veined stones. The flooring in the main areas of the larger units is based on a post war "parquet" grid except on a super graphic scale which reads familiar and fresh at the same time. The hardware finish is a polished blackened nickel and several of the terrace doors are Panda folding walls of glass.
NYS: Can you tell us about the four penthouses? What kind of amenities does each feature?
David Mann: Each Penthouse has a unique layout and all have significant outdoor space. All of the penthouses take great advantage of the unusual orientation of the building (longer in the east west direction), which provides long expanses of natural light to flood the interior. The open kitchens are well planned, placed and finished. They also have a concealed butler's pantry (a very uptown, prewar feature). The Master bathrooms are also well appointed and well finished with stone uniquely placed to define areas within the space (the wet area is one stone and dry area is another contrasting stone). All of the Penthouses have an especially large amount of storage.
NYS: How willing was the developer of 21W20 to go along with your ideas?
David Mann: Both the developer Gale International and our team were very quick to understand the goals and
objectives of this project so that are working process and dialog became very streamlined. The byproduct of this kind of collaboration is that both Gale International's ideas as well as our own were symbiotic.
NYS: Do you have a signature design style? If so, what is it? If not, what are common elements through all your designs?
David Mann: I would like to think that we do not have a signature style and that style does not really matter so much to us. By this I mean that we will accept the commission to design a period house or interior as readily as we would a modern project. We are far more interested in results that are extremely thoughtful and highly responsive to the reasons for the commission. Having stated the above, we are aware of how we are perceived by others and that there are common elements in our work that have to do with simple eloquent design impulses. We are always striving to make our work efficient, practical, and poetic all at once.
NYS: Considering the current political climate, we are extra excited to hear that 21W20 is pursuing LEED-certification and will be the first WELL Certified residential project in the world. What kind of environmental issues did you take into consideration when designing 21W20?
David Mann: Whether a project is LEED certified or not we always strive to do whatever we can to be as responsible as possible. To that end there was a LEED consultant who was directly responsible for verifying our materials, assemblies, etc. would yield the appropriate certification. WELL Certification is extraordinarily significant, and each residence utilizes the very best state-of-the-art systems including air and water filtration, light, sound attenuation, etc.
NYS: What other projects are you working on now?
David Mann: We are currently working on several very high-end residences in Manhattan as well as 111 Murray
Street which is a residential tower in Tribeca. For the latter project we are responsible for the apartment interiors.
NYS: Some of our readers might not know that your work will be featured in the premiere issue of our sister magazine, Exuberance. What kind of enticing details can you give our readers about what to expect?
David Mann: The article in Exuberance is centered on my home life with partner Fritz Karch. It features our previous penthouse studio and our house upstate.
NYS: What has been one of your favorite projects to date and why?
David Mann: I believe that I am always most interested in the projects I am currently working on. Over the years the true reward has been the people I have gotten to know and work with more than the advances in our design ability. I am talking about the true collaborations with people in my office, consultants, contractors, and of course the clients. It is living through these experiences always trying to make the most of them and learning from and about each other.
NYS: What would a dream project of yours look like?
David Mann: We are currently working on a dream project here in Manhattan which is a penthouse for and adventurous client including multiple artisan collaborations.
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