Automation and Art Deco Collide in Historic Walker Tower in NYC

Crestron touchpanels throughout the residence serve as control dashboards to a variety of electronic products and systems: lights, thermostats, motorized window shades, and more.

Crestron touchpanels throughout the residence serve as control dashboards to a variety of electronic products and systems: lights, thermostats, motorized window shades, and more.

IN THE REALM OF INTERIOR DESIGN and architecture, it’s often the space or building structure that informs and inspires the design. Such was the case for this swank residence, which was commissioned for the 2013 Seventh Annual Hearst Designer Vision Challenge. Jamie Drake, principal at Drake Design Associates, and home systems integration firm Audio Command Systems, were selected to remodel this condo, located in the Walker Tower in the Chelsea area of New York City. Drake, inspired by the Art Deco style of the building, envisioned the apartment as belonging to the granddaughter of Josephine Baker, chanteuse and muse of the Jazz Age.

“Baker was iconic and exuberant, and she pushed boundaries, just like the architecture of the ’20s,” says Drake. “Geometry, metallics, shine, modernity, and optimism were key characteristics of the era, defined by the loosening of morals, until the Great Depression.”

In addition to its Art Deco heritage, Walker Tower has a rich technological history. The building was formerly the West 18th Street Telephone Building, designed by Ralph Walker for the New York Telephone Company in an effort to assure customers that the telephone wasn’t just a novelty of the time, but a technology with staying power. They executed this philosophy through the permanence of architecture and, true to intent, this building has become a fixture of the NYC cityscape and still houses a telephone company–Verizon–to this day. It’s easy to see why technology was, therefore, part of the condo remodel plan from the beginning, furthering the pursuit of lavish entertaining, convenience, and comfort–features that the granddaughter of the forward-thinking Josephine Baker would have demanded. The home systems integrators at Audio Command Systems (ACS), Westbury, N.Y., worked closely with Drake to execute the integration of technology in the condo.

Lighting plays a prominent role in the design of each room, set to adjust automatically to bring out the luster of eye-catching paint colors.

Lighting plays a prominent role in the design of each room, set to adjust automatically to bring out the luster of eye-catching paint colors.

“Hearst wanted us to be involved to showcase the value of the technology in a luxury space and expand upon the existing system’s capability,” says Mathew V. Plasky, vice president of sales for ACS. Plasky and his team specified a Crestron home automation system. In the foyer, a wall-mounted 9-inch touchpanel welcomes homeowners, giving them the technological ease of touching one button to alter the environment of the space: the thermostats adjust to the ideal comfort level, lighting activates to preset intensity levels, motorized window shades move to either shield the afternoon sun or reveal the amazing panoramic views of the city. “It’s a joy and a pleasure to have one remote or one keypad to use to operate all the audio, temp controls, shades, and window treatments,” says Drake, who has a similar system in his own home.

Dramatic Neisha Crosland Zebra wallpaper in the foyer also sets the scene for the rest of the condo. “We wanted something that would make a statement immediately upon entering, but also reflect the rich Art Deco-era history of the building,” says Johanna Barger, senior designer at Drake.

Crestron touchpanels throughout the residence serve as control dashboards to a variety of electronic products and systems: lights, thermostats, motorized window shades, and more.

Crestron touchpanels throughout the residence serve as control dashboards to a variety of electronic products and systems: lights, thermostats, motorized window shades, and more.

Another area where design and technology commingle is the window coverings. According to Drake, shade control is crucial not only from a functional and aesthetic standpoint, but for protecting the furnishings and artwork within a luxury space. Here, Crestron Architectural Motorized Shades are tied back to the control system. With the touch of a button, the window coverings can be adjusted without so much as a hum, operating in complete silence.

In-wall docking stations for the iPad and iPhone provide the homeowners with complete control of their home technology, whether they are at home or away. Distributed audio throughout the apartment allows guests to convene in different rooms and enjoy a party atmosphere. During evening gatherings, lights are dimmed and shades are set so guests can enjoy the amazing views, city lights, and bustling streets. “Just add a bartender, and you’ve got a party,” says Barger. Crestron Cameo dimmers throughout the space offer lighting control via a mix of handheld remotes, touchpanels, and in-wall docking stations. Powering it all are components that are all neatly tucked away in the laundry room. “In order to achieve a harmonious design, it was important that we keep equipment hidden and centralized,” says Plasky. “The only visible signs of technology are the control devices and the occasional keypad, which are elegantly integrated.”

The Players
Electronics Design Installation Audio Command Systems, Westbury, N.Y.
Interior Design Drake Design Associates, New York, N.Y.

Equipment
Automation Control Crestron
Audio Video Crestron

ACS’s philosophy allowed the design to take center stage, including Drake’s signature color choices and finishes–a vibrant coral living room; a deep plum bedroom; and an aqueous digital water-color in the master bedroom. Every paint finish features some degree of luster, whether it is mixed with blue, gold, and green eye shadows or dusted with iron-oxide powder. The result is a dazzling, dynamic interior that changes with the light.

“The sophisticated design techniques and technology combine to create a space that would have delighted and dazzled Josephine,” says Barger. “I can just see her walking in, touching a panel and the lights, music, and shades are all perfectly set for a party. All she would need then would be a crowd to entertain and a good gin rickey.”


Shading & Lighting Control Crestron

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