Shamir Shah Masterminds a Manhattan Loft for Repeat Clients
New York designer Shamir Shah had just finished the complex multiyear renovation of a third-floor NoMad loft when the apartment eight flights above became available. His clients jumped at the chance to move on up for all the obvious reasons (the views, the quiet) and also because the higher floor cleared the neighboring buildings, which meant light flooding in through all four exposures, unlike the couple’s current place. Not to mention, “the wife is a design junkie who enjoys the renovation process,” Shah explains. He, however, was hesitant to dive right into another gut job. “The third-floor space had been a difficult renovation, so I was like, ‘I need a break, guys!’” he jokes.
Luckily, Shah was able to capitalize on all the design thinking he’d done the first go-round. The clients loved the original scheme and wanted something in the same spirit here. Some of the furnishings, including the living room’s custom tufted-velvet sofa and Milo Baughman lounges, could be reused upstairs. Plus, Shah knew well how to navigate the challenges the 1914 former manufacturing building presented, most notably a single, centralized mechanical/plumbing stack to service the floor-through’s 3,500 square feet.
And having had a chance to observe how his clients, a neurosurgeon and a photographer, lived in their old space, Shah had thought of a few floor plan tweaks to implement. He’d repeat the relatively free-flowing layout, with an expansive living room commandeering the loft’s south side and bedrooms lined up along the north. The kitchen and dining area plus an office nook would still preside in the center of the floor plate. But whereas the former kitchen was enclosed, here on eleven the wife, who entertains frequently, asked for a more social configuration that would allow her to interact with guests while she prepped meals. The catch was that she often whipped up heavily spiced Indian dishes and was concerned about cooking odors emanating throughout the space. Would an open kitchen really be practical?
Shah solved the problem by gifting his clients two kitchens in one. The barlike “public” part, with glass-front steel cabinetry, centers on a basalt-topped island that stands proximate to the dining area (whose maple-slab table was so big it had to be craned in through a window). An unobtrusive pair of doors on the kitchen’s back wall, which meld seamlessly with the surrounding acid-treated oak millwork, swing open to reveal an inner sanctum: a turbo-charged butler’s pantry complete with six-burner range and powerful ventilation system. Here, the wife can conjure elaborate curries without fear of escaping vapors. “I’ve done a kosher kitchen before, but never a true double kitchen,” the designer marvels.
Another layout modification was to the rear sleeping zone. The clients’ former apartment had three bedrooms, but for their new home Shah proposed they opt for just two, and devote the extra square footage to a larger media room that could double as guest quarters. The middle section of the 19-foot-long custom banquette that extends the room’s length pulls out into a queen-size bed for overnighters. Above the seating hangs a biomorphic mixed-media artwork by Malcolm Hill, Shah’s partner. “Given the scale of the piece, it made sense to install the six plywood panels first, sketch the design on site, and then bring the panels back to his studio to complete,” Shah recalls.
Hill’s work is in good company among pieces by Vik Muniz, Max Neumann, and Edward Burtynsky that the homeowners have collected over time. Also in residence is a sculpture by Dana Barnes, a treelike twist of wool that rises from floor to ceiling between the living room’s twin Vladimir Kagan sofas. Barnes’s work has proved a crowd pleaser with the entire family: “When Dana came to the apartment with templates to discuss color choices, the clients’ dogs were all over them!” Shah laughs. (Thankfully, a regular spritz of lavender oil keeps the pups off the installed piece.)
The organic bearing of the wool sculpture complements another unique feature: a vertical indoor garden. Flanking the kitchen is a pair of verdant accent walls, their colors mirroring the sultry green of the glazed ceramic backsplash. The living wall was the client’s idea, but Shah approved: he too likes to garden, albeit outdoors: “It’s a wonderful respite from toiling on New York City interiors!” LEDs recessed in the ceiling supplement natural illumination that flows through the dining area’s newly instated east-facing windows. “To wash the living wall top to bottom with the necessary lumens per square foot required a custom lighting solution,” Shah explains. “It took a year to develop.”
Such attention to infrastructural detail is a Shamir Shah Design hallmark. “Getting the architecture right—a layout that enhances efficiency, controlling mechanicals with precision—is critical,” he says. Shah points to the almost invisible HVAC slots on the ceiling and the fireplace and windows repositioned to instill symmetry and alignment. The crisp backdrop is enriched by a mossy, licheny palette sparked by the tone of the grayed-oak floorboards. “I’m not a huge color guy,” he confesses. “I’m one for dark and moody. It’s very sheltering.”
With the abundance of velvet, the silk carpets and wall covering, and the bronze and leather accents, the space is certainly that—the kind of place you want to burrow in and never leave. Even if the apartment upstairs becomes available.
Project Team: Bel-Air Design Group: Architect of Record. PSE Audio Visual: Audiovisual Consultant. Engineering Group Associates: Structural Engineer. Becht Engineering: Mechanical Engineer. Jan Morawski Construction: General Contractor.