It was a straightforward request, and unlike any we’d heard:Look to a 300-year-old Gibson Stradivarius as a touchstone for a contemporarypenthouse design. That was the starting point of our collaboration with JoshuaBell, who wanted to turn two floors and a roof of an old manufacturing plant intohis New Yorkhome and salon in the Flatiron District. Bellwas interested in replicating the richness and warmth of the violin’s woods,plus its graceful details—the shape of the f-holes, for example, and curves ofthe waist. Also important to him was creating a salon space for theperformances he likes to host for friends on occasion and putting fireplaces onall three floors.
We organized the spaces on the upper floor around a dramaticoxidized steel-and-glass stair situated along the east wall and leading to arooftop atrium. Light pours through the atrium into the centrally locatedliving room, which is defined by a change in the floor level and furtherseparated from the adjacent dining and kitchen area by a limestone hearth. Twosteps up, on the northern end, is the study, which Bell can convert to performance space; aproscenium curtain is there for dramatic effect.
Bell’s ideas dictated the choice of reclaimed bubinga woodfor the wide plank floors and the reclaimed wenge, a dark wood, used formillwork and the dining room table we designed. Subtle details draw from Bell’s Stradivarius, too:The stair handrail, also wenge, has a subtle curve that echoes the waist;stainless steel grilles are an abstracted f-hole shape. Running the length ofthe west wall is a line of wenge wood that starts as a banquette in the diningroom, continues as a window seat; and ultimately joins the fireplace in thestudy; Belltold Architectural Digest it reminds him of a fingerboard of a violin.