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This apartment displays an array of artworks and also encourages visitors to give their surroundings some artistic consideration

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A desire to showcase an array of artworks or objects is as likely an design prerequisite as any other when formulating the look of an interior project. Plain white walls, and dedicated spotlighting are typical design solutions for this oft-requested element. However, some focused architects and astute owners may take the premise one step further – creating an interior that is an artwork in its own right.

This two-level penthouse was presented to architect Jim Winer as an empty shell with only in-situ service elements in evidence.

"The owners driving stipulations were that the interior be quietly modern, comfortable, and set off their artworks to spectacular effect," says Winer.

The apartment comprises a living room, dining room and family room on the lower level, together with a kitchen, gallery/lobby area and a library. Upstairs there are four bedroom suites, a home theater, and a sitting room.

"We created a serene, compositionally tight interior that has a light, almost floating ambiance, appropriate to the penthouse's elevation," he says.

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To achieve that and to provide an environment for displaying artworks, the project has a predominantly light palette with richer materials and color introduced in the form of wood veneers, furniture, and fabrics. In keeping with the light palette, the flooring is largely in blond bamboo, with some wool carpeting.

Ceiling treatments are an important element of the apartment. They introduce an airy feel and encourage the eye to deconstruct the interior, an effect that is enhanced by the various treatments of the windows and walls.

"There is a consistent flat ceiling plane throughout, with cutouts allowing for a series of higher arched blond bamboo panels and elevated flat sheetrock panels," says the architect. "To enhance a floating, almost weightless feel for the ceiling, the edges of the ceiling panels around the cutouts are tapered – creating the impression of lightness. The bamboo ceilings are shaped like airplane ceilings."

Within the curved, vaulted bamboo ceilings, back-lit cut-outs take the uppermost ceiling level even higher again. This stepping back of ceiling levels is a feature spatial element also found in the layering of the wall planes. The design of the ceilings, walls and even art pedestals accommodates the immovable service plant elements within the composition. The position of the base building elements, such as the elevator, also determined the distribution of spaces within the residence.

Bamboo floors underfoot and bamboo ceilings overhead encourage the eye to see both as abstracted elements. This deconstructed effect is also used on the wall planes.

"The ceiling and floor planes are separated, as if floating, from the bottom and tops of the walls by a three-inch black ash inset," says Winer.

Reveals subdivide walls, making the geometries of the space more apparent. The reveals also provide wall panels that allow for the use of accent-color backgrounds for artwork, or serve as stand-alone panels of color.

"The window walls are clad in black ash and set behind wall planes, forming curtain pockets."

The overall effect almost pulls the interior apart visually, and appears to let light bleed in at the seams – the lighting is a key element of this design.

Track lights are set into the ceiling to highlight the artworks. Concealed lights illuminate the cut outs in the bamboo ceiling and the wall surfaces at the ends of the bamboo vaults.

"Concealed lighting is positioned to create the impression of natural light filtering into the spaces through the ceiling," says Winer. "3 Form polyester resin is used extensively throughout the penthouse on pedestal tops, stair treads and even on some bathroom walls. It is a material that has great luminosity and spatial depth within a relatively thin surface."

Resin-top pedestals are under-lit to highlight glass artworks. Above them, light boxes further the illusion of light filtering from an unknown source.

Furniture arrangements are in harmony with the geometries of the spaces and play a subtle role in providing a shift in the character of rooms.

"Color, texture, and individual furniture pieces combine to achieve the client's desire for a serene, contemporary environment," says Winer.

First published date: 02 May 2008

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Credit List

Architect, interior designer, kitchen designer Menefee + Winer Architects (Atlanta, GA); Principal in charge, Jim Winer, AIA, USGBC
Program management Chris Soffe, Gleeds U.S.A
Lighting consultant Andrew Beldecos
AV Avyve
Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing Johnson Spellman Assoc
Doors and windows Aluminum-clad wood, from Hurd Windows; black interior, white exterior NanaWall
Flooring Natural unfinished bamboo flooring from Smith & Fong Plyboo; Luxuria/canvas from Courtisan Carpet; Sevilla-eucalyptus from Unique Carpets
Paints Benjamin Moore
Cabinetry Figured Sapele veneer, Anegre quarter fiddle figure custom cabinetry
Countertops Stainless steel; Calcatta Gold marble kitchen island top and breakfast banquette
Backsplash Advanced Glass Designs
Kitchen sink Custom stainless steel
Faucets Dornbracht from Apex Supply
Oven GE Profile, Gaggenau 200 series
Cooktop Diva Induction
Ventilation Vent-A-Hood
Living room furniture Sigmund chaise, Cuoio Morbio Mosto in woven leather, from Triangolo; Ocean Sofa in Espresso, Club chair in Espresso, Toja coffee table, console from Holly Hunt
Dining room furniture Lombard dining table from Michael Berman; Almont arm chair, Almont side chair from Michael Berman
Kitchen furniture Cherner barstool in ebony; Wellington sofa, Wimot club chair in walnut from Gerard; built in seating by Craig Swenson
Library furniture Holmby lounge chair in classic walnut; Edo small table from Promemoria; built in seating by Craig Swenson
Other furnishings Bamboo ceiling vaults from Architectural Components Group; glass shelving Arakawa hanging system; pedestal tops in Chroma 3 Form resin
Spiral staircase Precision Custom Metals
Blinds and curtains Lutron Basketweave shades in alabaster and custom curtains from Lindsey-Marshall
Rugs Mark Phillips Story by Charles Moxham Photography by John Umberger