Tuesday, January 22, 2013

FT Weekend: Ian Schrager at Home in New York

The co-founder of Studio 54 and boutique hotel pioneer gives a tour of his most personal project
Ian Schrager in the glass entertainment room on his New York penthouse©Brian Shumway
Ian Schrager in the glass entertainment room on the upper level of his penthouse at 40 Bond Street, New York City, surrounded by views of Manhattan

Ian Schrager, the creative force behind some of the world’s most stylish hotels, is in his entertainment room, a stunning glass house perched on top of his Manhattan penthouse, with jaw-dropping views of the city in every direction.
He’ll do the photos, “but not with him,” Schrager says, pointing to Elmo, a grimacing soft toy version of the Sesame Street Muppet. “Our son has free reign in the house. He’s slowly taking it over,” he says of Louis, his two-year-old son with wife, Tania.

A quick look around the room confirms that Louis has made this rooftop space his own: the floor is scattered with blue foam matting, trucks, blankets and toys – even the 5,000 sq ft wrap-around terrace has playhouses and a sand and water table. Not that Schrager, who is 67, minds. “We love it so much downstairs we don’t get to use upstairs very much.”

This is Schrager’s dream family home, the first property he says he has truly injected as much energy into as his development projects, which include the Delano in Miami, the Royalton in New York, and most recently Edition hotels for Marriott, around the world, as well as the Public Hotel in Chicago, created as part of his own brand.

Schrager is credited with pioneering the “boutique hotel” concept, but he made his name back in the late 1970s with Studio 54, the nightclub he established with his business partner Steve Rubell, which became a regular haunt of celebrities including Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli and Mick Jagger.

The apartment, part of Schrager’s development at 40 Bond Street in NoHo, is the result of an intense collaboration that spanned more than two years. Schrager had John Pawson, the minimalist architect, plus his own team of designers and his own input to consider.

First, he snapped up the penthouse in the Herzog & de Meuron-designed building, a cast iron structure swathed in green glass. Then he bought the apartment below and combined them. The property now has 8,500 sq ft of indoor space, in addition to the outdoor terraces, and he estimates, when pressed, that it could be worth $55m to $60m. Schrager spent $30m on it, and has no intention of selling anytime soon.
Ian Schrager's living area©Brian Shumway
Living area

The entrance from the lift leads to an expansive hall, with a family room, Schrager’s offices and a TV room to the right, and the family’s bedrooms to the left. Sheer panelling made from a blend of wool and Trevira runs along the length of the apartment “for softness”.

Schrager has two daughters (Sophia, 18, and Ava, 15) from a previous marriage, as does his wife (Amanda, 17, and Lili, 15). The girls’ bedrooms are down a curved staircase decorated in fairy lights for the holidays, and showcasing family photos.

Each room is the same size exactly, “for political correctness”, but they got to choose their own colours and decor. Can they sneak in to the house unnoticed, through the front entrance and down the stairs to their bedrooms? “They can, but if that became an issue we would lock the doors!” says Schrager.

In the master bedroom, a low-lying bed is surrounded by family photos, and floor-to-ceiling views of downtown Manhattan. The bathroom was reduced in size to make space for a baby room but it is still large enough to include a Brazilian basalt hot tub.

Pawson offered to design a crib for Louis’s room (they ended up choosing David Netto; it’s white and beige and sleek), and there are shelves of books, and soft toys. “Why shouldn’t a baby be exposed to the same things parents are? My wife picked the crib out and I think it looks very 40 Bond.”

Schrager explains that he bought the apartment before he was married, but he has firm views on “family” design. “When I did the Delano, when my first daughter was quite young, I made all the rooms white and I was telling everyone it was a family resort ... People said, ‘White room? Just wait till a kid puts chocolate on the bedspread.’ It never happened, because everyone kind of rises to the occasion of where they are staying.”

Louis’s room is toddler chic and noticeably absent of pastels. “To me, you don’t have to have a kid’s room that looks like it was done by Nickelodeon. It can be sophisticated.”
Ian Schrager's den and kitchen/dining area©Brian Shumway

The den and kitchen/dining area
Schrager recalls his childhood home in Brooklyn. “When I was growing up I always had modest surroundings, but they were nice, stylish ... [My parents] had a gold couch, black furniture, white walls, my parents had good taste. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t worldly, but it was good taste.”

“I want my kid to grow up in sophisticated surroundings. I don’t want to culture down to him, he can culture up,” says Schrager. “Not that he embraces our style, but at least it is an expansive exercise for us.”

Schrager leads the way down the long hallway and into the family room, which has an open kitchen and lounge area. “My wife and I have the same aesthetic. There is only one thing she did I wouldn’t have done and that is to put up a rail in the kitchen for the pans.”

Pawson did not want curtains. Schrager did. “I wanted at least sheers ... It kind of helped define the architecture by putting them down one entire wall.”

Pawson wanted stone floors. Schrager wanted wood, for a warmer feel. “I wanted a certain colour: white oak from Austria. Each plank is treated separately, and if it’s not done well it will come out green. He completely replaced the first attempt.”

“I got Don Kaufman [the architectural colourist] to help achieve the colour – a grey.” Schrager oversaw the new planks, and then a member of his design team approved each plank as it was installed. So how long did it take from start to finish? “It was a big construction job. It was a bit more than three years. I just really wanted to make it the home of my dreams. A lot of people in my business never get a chance to.”
Ian Schrager's master bedroom and long hallway©Brian Shumway
Master bedroom and long hallway

Schrager recalls that when he started his career, he was living in apartments where the only furniture was the bed. This time round, he hired the French interior designer Christian Liaigre and landscape designer Madison Cox.

He says he is paying similar obsessive attention to finishings at his most recent project: 26 residences (for Edition) in Miami, where he did the Delano 25 years ago. There will be wooden floors, not stone or carpet, and design by Pawson and Schrager’s team. Each apartment may be furnished and decorated according to individual tastes or to guidelines suggested by the architect. Custom furniture packages curated by Pawson and the Schrager design team include furniture designed by Pawson, Hans Wegner, Jean-Michel Frank and Christian Liaigre. “You can choose what you want. Usually, you can’t get an appointment with these guys so it’s incredible access,” says Schrager.

His office is where his favourite things are: a highly organised desk, with shelves of books (he has 5,000 but keeps most at his Southampton house), family photos and collectables. Yes, Louis has made his mark even here – there is a toy truck parked at the entrance. But no one touches Schrager’s desk. That remains perfectly intact.
Favourite thing
Ian and Tania Schrager’s wedding cake topper©Brian Shumway
Ian and Tania Schrager’s wedding cake topper:
“I took it from the cake and kept it! It’s fun. That was a great day.”
Bertoia sculpture:
“I love the lines. This was a gift from my good friend Robert Isabell.” Isabell was the renowned floral designer and events planner whose lavish parties helped create the buzz around Studio 54, the New York nightclub Schrager established in the 1970s with Steve Rubell.