How one of downtown’s most prominent high-rises belies its industrial exterior aesthetic with interior feng shui functionality and warmth
Any not ion that the Barclays Center-inspired downtown real estate frenzy was going to be isolated to the complex’s adjoining few blocks was quickly demolished when, in 2011, the Toren Condominium building at 150 Myrtle Street began construction. The 38-story residential tower is essentially divided into a below-30th-floor array of studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments–along with an eight-story penthouse section featuring both one- and two-bedroom designs.
With SOM Architects at the helm, the Toren, apart from its Mondrian-esque playful lines (both interior and exterior), had the additional distinction of vying for gold LEED environmental certification. Its residents have all the accommodations of a city within a city, including a 2,000-square-foot fitness center, a library, parking garage, outdoor movie theater, indoor pool and sauna, and multilevel roof garden.
Building developer BFC Partners called upon interior designer Sung Yoo to add touches that played with the fascinating lines of the building, without overpowering them. Yoo, creative director of Hucbek Inc., has a background in fine and visual arts, is a graduate of Parson’s School of Design and is, as she puts it, “…inspired by everything from eclectic people to global travel, Muay Thai, deep sea creatures, and nature.”
We asked what challenges and opportunities were presented by this pivotal building in downtown’s renaissance.
Industry: What was the nature of the working relationship with BFC Partners like? Was there synergy involved, or did you essentially hand designs to them to execute?
Sung Yoo: I have been working with them for many years now, so it was a very smooth workflow. I access a space early on, then present an initial concept and layout. The proposals are reviewed and required revisions made. Once those are approved, I begin the design process. All the custom pieces (furniture, art, textiles, etc.) are designed first then the other details. There are a lot of impromptu decisions I make along the way, which at times completely change the initial layout, but I make sure to stay true to the initial concepts, so there hasn’t been any problems.
Industry: Were you given a list of aesthetic requirements for each apartment ( in effect from each apartment buying client), or were you asked to execute general design for apartments which would later be put up for sale?
SY: No, I start from scratch and present my concepts to the client. When furnishing models, I design each unit with a different story in mind. Plus, everyone wants to hear a story, no?
Industry: Can you give us a story from the design?
SY: Well, take unit 2906. The concept was for a young professional, female, journalist type who works in the city, spends her weekends in Brooklyn, and travels internationally. She is a health and earth conscious individual. Functionality is key in my designs, but I also incorporate feng shui practices as much as possible. The goal when placing any objects into a space is to have them in “commanding positions”— this is what directs a positive energy flow. I designed the second room as an office—the desk facing the doorway, which is an ideal commanding position. Additionally, I included a photograph to bring high energy into this workspace. Eliminating clutter is important, so I added storage ideas such as the bookshelf, a trunk coffee table, as well as solution for more books, which are displayed in the bedroom. The bookshelf, accessories, and red chair were purchased from a flea market and repainted. The trunk was also a find at a flea market, to which I had legs added in order for it to function as both storage and a coffee table.
I kept the main elements simple but chose accessories that would add texture, color, and warmth to the condo. When selecting the accessories, I chose handmade options which always add more character to each individual piece. I custom designed the dining room table and had it built in Brooklyn. Kitchen accessories are from various vendors like ABC home and Anthropologie. Details such as soap and cleaning products are all natural brands as well.
Industry: And the art? Did you have a hand in that as well?
SY: Absolutely. I sourced the photograph in the office from a photographer who lives in the city and was changing her career from the finance industry to be more creative. The two canvases are paintings I had general ideas about, then they were painted on site with acrylic.
Industry: We were struck by the 3606 condo as well. Not a huge space, but it certainly strikes an initial viewer that way.
SY: The concept for that duplex unit was for a young family with two children. They’re entrepreneurs of a creative business with an office in Brooklyn. In support of local vendors—a bit of an obsession of mine—I chose paintings of boxers by George Spenser, who is based in the borough. The art on the first floor is from various vendors such as Etsy and West Elm, but the Warhol drawing is owned by the client.
Industry: What motivated the furniture decisions here?
SY: I chose the large dining table to be able to host guests, and added ceiling pendants for the majority of the lighting in this condo to save space. The coffee table was custom designed and built by a local vendor. The living room rug was used to create a separation from dining and living room and pops of color were added with the accent pillows. I chose a darker couch with the wear and tear of children in mind, as well as the selection of darker colored rugs in both children’s rooms. Considering that the kids were fairly young, the mattresses were kept low, using only a bed base, and the chalkboard wall was an added cost-efficient element of functionality and fun. The low dressers are from CB2, which were great purchases—cost efficient, and they added color. Restful and nourishing energy is important in the bedroom for good feng shui, so I kept the master bedroom [on the second floor] minimal. The soft padded bed frame allows access from all sides and the side tables have a door to keep clutter enclosed. The alpacas in the second bedroom were painted on site with acrylic on bristol, and accessories throughout the condo are from boutique shops in Brooklyn and SoHo.
150 Myrtle Ave., 2nd fl / bfcnyc.com
Look for custom products from Sung Yoo in late July,
including a leather blanket, fully lined and made using
vegetable dye, as well as textiles for rugs and blankets