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THE FIRST GREEN
RESIDENTIAL TOWER

Designing an apartment to look good is every interior designer's aim, but simultaneously making it green is a less familiar matter. That was the challenge M. Scott Marks and Tim Button of Stedila Design faced at the Solaire in Battery Park City, the country's first high-rise sustainable apartment building. In addition to consulting on standard green elements for all of the apartments--flooring, tile, cupboards, countertops--the firm was asked to furnish the seven model apartments for the 29-story building. "We didn't want sustainable to mean that it had to look one way," Marks explains. "So we came up with four different ways of looking at the interiors: traditional; modern; a look where we went with more ethnic ideas; and retro contemporary, which turned out to be very Danish looking."

Curious about the layered decision-making that goes into an eco-friendly interior, Metropolis asked Marks to explain his choices for the retro contemporary two-bedroom apartment. In the notes that follow, it's clear that green design is a holistic mind-set. "The project has absolutely changed the way I look at everything," Marks says. "I now incorporate sustainable design at every opportunity."

The Solaire's kitchen/eating/living room. The area's floor plan (above) and the furnished space (below). Details of its furnishings follow.

The designers wanted Lake Placid granite countertops, but quarries in upstate New York send their granite to China for processing. Instead they chose Uba Tuba granite from Brazil. "The quarries in Brazil are right on the water, so stone could be processed there and then brought up directly to New York harbor," Marks explains. The cabinets are made of urea-free formaldehyde fiberboard and FSC-certified cherry wood. All appliances are Energy Star rated.

The flooring is an FSC-certified maple parquet specially made for this project with non-urea formaldehyde binders. The designers chose maple instead of the more popular oak because it is lighter and reflects more natural light into the apartment.

The rug is from Bentley Prince Street's reclaimed-recycled line: old carpets are returned to the factory and turned into new product.

Manufactured in Brooklyn by Heptagon, Andre Joyau's armoire uses salvaged timber from demolished buildings. "Joyau is trying to take advantage of getting the maximum out of all of the old-growth stuff," Marks says. "When a building comes down, he knows about it, and he gets there to salvage materials."

An economy of materials is what drew Marks and Button to architecture firm Bailey Humbert Heck's coffee table. The wood-and-glass structure is held together by a cross of tension wires, which gives it strength and stability without a lot of bulk.

The sofa is custom made by Furnature. The frame is constructed of FSC-certified hardwood, the fabric is 100 percent hemp canvas from Hemp Traders, and the triple-washed hand-picked organic cotton batting is nonallergenic.

Working on the theory that reusing is recycling, Marks and Button bought several pieces of furniture for the model apartments--including this side table from Tepper Galleries--at auctions. When refinishing was required, they called on Eli Rios of E.C.R. Restorations, a local firm that uses traditional finishes like waxes and natural animal dyes instead of toxic materials.

The frame of the Gotham Lounge, designed by Peter Danko, is made of maple from a forest managed using sustainable practices. The straps are salvaged seat belts. Marks chose it in part because of his focus on reduced shipping distances. "Whenever I could find a manufacturer within a 500-mile radius of New York City, that was a big plus," Marks explains. "Danko's company, which is really pushing sustainable design, is out of Pennsylvania, so that fit."

The painting, by Stephen Cimini, is made of wax and marble dust. None of the art in the model apartments gives off any toxic fumes.

The Solaire's study. The area's floor plan (above) and the furnished space (below). Details of its furnishings follow.

The drapery is from Cotton Plus, a company that resells closeouts and end runs of discontinued fabrics--all organic--that might otherwise end up in a landfill.

Marks likes this desk from Blu Dot because "it's a company that uses a minimum of materials to get so much." The plywood-and-steel desk is broken down and "flat packed" for shipping, which reduces fuel consumption by fitting more products onto a truck or ship.

The Ipanema chair, from King's Road Home, has the look of midcentury Modern design but is made of abaca (a woven banana-leaf fiber) instead of plastic. The company carries a wide array of furniture made from reclaimed woods and renewable organic materials like coconut fibers and water hyacinth roots. Many pieces are constructed with mortise-and-tenon joints to eliminate extra parts like screws and nails.

The coffee table, designed by Peter Abrams of Modern Metalworks, has a frame made of recycled elevator cable with a drop inset of recycled rubber tire.

Desiron's sofa was manufactured in Northern New Jersey and thus fits the designers' "less than 500 miles" criterion. Consumers can request that the frame be made of certified recycled steel. According to Marks, "They [Desiron] continue to explore new technologies and innovations to push their product even further toward sustainability." He also points out that the pillows shown here, fluffed or not, are made from recycled sweaters.

The Bow wall sconce, designed by Tim Sharpe and Todd Laby and available from Octate, is made of a thin veneer on plywood substrate. The one-inch-thick light fixture ships flat and takes on its curved shape once unpacked. Floorplans courtesy Cesar Pelli & Associate

Written by: Paul Makovsky, Metropolis Mag


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