DDC’s Babak Hakakian Unwinds in a Manhattan Apartment by ODA New York
Babak Hakakian, a partner in the New York contemporary furniture firm DDC, is not wont to settle for second rate when hiring architects. He, his father, and brothers, who together run the family business, tapped no less than Philip Johnson to design a company showroom near the Empire State Building in Manhattan. And when it came to selecting someone to turn a 2,300-square-foot gutted space several blocks south into a home for his own growing family, Hakakian reached out to Eran Chen, founder and executive director of ODA New York, who happens to be a friend. “Would you mind?” he asked Chen, whose residential portfolio encompasses hundreds of apartments.
The space Hakakian had acquired was certainly persuasive in its own right: It spanned the entire fourth floor of the landmark Western Union Telegraph Building, designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (Alexander Graham Bell’s office was reportedly three floors up); the ceilings were 11 feet high; and it had 17 windows overlooking leafy Madison Square Park and Daniel Burnham’s iconic Flatiron Building.
But the space was also problematic: a skinny 29-by-82-foot rectangle that necessitated rooms lined up in a regimented row with a long hall connecting them—“not ideal,” says Chen, who prefers circulation patterns that weave rather than march in a linear fashion.
Hoping to bring natural light into the windowless corridor—and keep it from feeling tunnellike—Hakakian suggested clear glass walls all along the hall. Chen nixed that idea. Instead, the architect created perpendicular hallways that intersect the long space, breaking it up and providing “sneak peeks” to the perimeter windows. He also bumped out the corridor in two places to create niches for displaying art.
As for the rooms themselves, Chen conceived each as a container devoted to a different natural element. The choice of materials—and Hakakian’s selection of furniture from DDC’s catalog and archive of vintage designs—reinforces the concept. In the “earth”-themed space at the end of the hall, which houses the kitchen and living/dining areas, Chen cantilevered a sliding marble counter over the center island. Hakakian selected a Philippe Starck chandelier with amber-hued antlers to hang over the dining table, which is flanked by a Franco Poli walnut bar. The adjacent guest bathroom’s “fire” motif is underscored by blazing red tiles.
The “water”-themed master suite is the one place where Chen gave in to his friend’s glass-wall idea. Hakakian wanted a spalike bedroom and bath, “open to each other, like you find in a hotel.” Chen responded by enclosing the wet room, which abuts the hall, with electrified glass that turns opaque when the room is in use but otherwise stays clear. The architect left Hakakian with a word of warning about having the bathroom in full view: “You’ll have to keep things tidy in there.”