The Real Deal New York

Starck heads downmarket

Designer does interiors at rentals, Jersey condos

January 02, 2008
By Alison Gregor

French designer Philippe Starck is quirky and playful. Witness one of his latest creations, a floor-to-ceiling chandelier at 15 Broad Street, or a well-known example, the Ghost Armchair, his 2002 reinterpretation of the classic Louis XVI armchair – in plastic.

But now the Starck style is trickling down to rentals and across the Hudson.

Starck, as part of his collaboration with developer John Hitchcox in Yoo by Starck, will design the interiors for the 505 rental apartments in the office building conversion at 95 Wall Street, owned by the Moinian Group, which will come on market this spring. And his work will be offered in 131 condominiums in Aurora Over the Hudson in Cliffside Park, N.J.

It’s all part of the mass popularization of the designer, known for refined interiors in the Royalton and Paramount hotels in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles and the Delano in Miami. Branching beyond hotels, he began applying his sometimes-transgressive style to everything from furniture and housewares to motorbikes and boats.

In recent years, he has worked on 15 Broad Street, a Wall Street-area condominium known as Downtown by Phillipe Starck, and the Gramercy, a non-Gramercy-area condominium at 340 East 23rd Street.

“The Philippe Starck style is something very familiar to these potential renters, because they stay in those hotels,” said Clifford Finn, managing director for new development marketing at Citi Habitats, the marketing agent for 95 Wall. “We really felt this particular audience can’t always afford to buy it, but they certainly love it, and they want it, so they should be able to rent it.” (Rental prices have not been released yet).

The secret to the great man’s ubiquitousness? His alliance with Hitchcox in Yoo by Starck has enabled the designer to package his creations in a way palatable to property developers. He does so with four styles, called “Classic,” “Culture,” “Nature” and “Minimal”; the developer can simply purchase whichever he or she finds most marketable from the palette.

John Hitchcox, reached while cycling to the airport to catch a flight to Starck’s fourth wedding, said the essence of the designer’s appeal is its unexpectedness.

“He quite enjoys playing with utilitarian objects and blowing them out of proportion just to make you feel a bit like you’re in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or in a slightly dreamlike state, which he enjoys doing in the lobby areas,” said Hitchcox, whose collaboration with Starck currently has about 45 projects, or about 25,000 apartments, in the works in 20 countries. The partners have invested $10 billion in the development program.

Hitchcox calls the four styles “an innovative way of dealing with choice for the purchaser, and a structure that the developer can work with.”

Linda Fine, marketing director for Boymelgreen Development and project manager for Downtown by Philippe Starck, said Starck pushed buyers to explore their own inner designer.

“People would ask if he would design their apartments, and he said, ‘No, I don’t design apartments. You have to design your own space, because you have to live in it. What I’m offering you is all sorts of things which you can buy and put together in a way that you feel is the way you want to live and the way that you’re happy,’” Fine said.

At the Aurora Over the Hudson, developers have chosen to go with the Classic and Culture styles.

“We wanted something that was a clean, contemporary line, but had traditional materials and natural woods and wasn’t too, pardon the pun, stark-looking,” said Mary Boorman, senior vice president for development, sales and marketing at the Pinnacle Companies, one of the developers on the project.

“Because of the price range and the level of sophistication, most buyers are familiar with Starck, though they might not necessarily have seen it associated with a community,” Boorman said. “Often they have seen it associated with other design works: hotels, resorts, that kind of thing.

“We’ve found that our Asian purchasers – and also, we have a lot of Eastern European purchasers, Russians, etc. – are also very attracted to the Starck brand image,” she continued.

The units in Aurora Over the Hudson, many of which have floor-to-ceiling glass windows, will be housed in
two towers conjoined by a podium. Both towers will be shaped like the hulls of ships, with the prows facing
Manhattan, giving people in all the homes views, Boorman said.

Two- and three-bedroom homes that are about 3,000 square feet have been going for around $2 million, she said, attracting residents seeking space in New York City, along with empty-nesters and international buyers, she said.

Architects have said they’ve also found working with Starck to be a worthwhile experience.

“The one nice thing about working with Yoo is they
respect the architect’s responsibility,” said Randolph Gerner, principal of Gerner, Kronick & Valcarcel P.C., the architect for the Gramercy on East 23rd Street, which had sold almost all of its approximately 200 apartments by December.

Gerner said that he believes the appeal of Starck with large numbers of homebuyers, as well as those in the design world, has to do with his depth as a designer.

“He’s a very captivating personality,” Gerner said. “He is quite the showman, but he has quite the show at the same time, so I do think his products are fabulous. What Andy Warhol did for art, he perhaps has done for interior
design.”

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