The owner of two units in a modern, mid-town high-rise wanted to reconfigure the layouts and combine them into one exquisite apartment. New mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems would need to be installed, along with top-of-the-line fixtures, finishes and appliances. Custom built-in millwork with quarter- inch fillers (no scribes), moreover, would have to start fabrication before the walls were in place because of a tight schedule.
Rothlisberger, a renowned millworker based in Switzerland, endorsed Rusk Renovations as one of the few companies in New York who could think through an unbuilt project and construct walls within the required 8-inch tolerance, notes John Rusk, president of Rusk Renovations, which serves clients in Manhattan.
“We have to agree that we’re going to hold a dimension of 57 and one-eighth; and when they show up with the millwork four months later, that wall is now in place, and it’s 57 and one-eighth and plumb,” says John, who established the residential contracting firm more than 30 years ago.
Built to Entertain
The tall needle skyscraper sways, so Rusk had to curtail its use of spinning lasers to level ceilings and millwork on windy days when the lines would move up and down the walls. A ladder accidentally cracking a window could cost $20,000 to replace, not to mention the potential of glass falling 30 floors below; therefore, the company blocked off all windows with protection during construction.
Sourcing the millwork in Switzerland complicated the coordination of shop drawings and, ultimately, the product installation. To meet the schedule, Rusk had to draw elements in collaboration with the HVAC, plumbing and framing subcontractors and plan everything in 3D carefully so Rothlisberger could build cabinets that would fit when they arrived by boat.
Balancing the breathtaking views outside the building with the beautiful interior of the apartment often presents a challenge for contemporary tower living, John explains. The construction details and craftsmanship must measure up to the extraordinary sightlines. Gorgeous stone-clad walls, a custom wine room and the superior millwork constructed overseas hold their own inside the unit.
“The owner was looking for something that was incredibly special in New York City, something that was knock-your-socks-off beautiful,” John says. “He entertains often, so the space is built for entertaining in addition to being a comfortable home for him and his family when they are in New York.”
The client also sought some personal perks, such as a larger master bathroom. Most of the view had been obscured by mirrors and sheetrock walls that concealed floor-to-ceiling vent lines in the center of the bath. The vents were offset just above the floor, run to the wall and then reconnected at the ceiling to continue traveling up through the building, which allowed the glass wall to the shower.
The design team moved the vanity to the side and placed the tub front and center in the bathroom to create an unimpeded view of downtown New York. To accommodate the piping, Rusk raised the tub on a curved platform clad in stone. While the other bathroom with a window has electric-operated glass to provide privacy at the flip of a switch, the master bath has no nearby structure.
“The building is so high that you can take a bath, and there’s no one who’s looking in. It’s just too far physically from anywhere else in the city,” John explains. “So it really is a place to have this incredible experience of bathing in the middle of Manhattan.”
Because the bathrooms and living areas are clad in stone, the design team had to identify a method for visualizing their choice of slabs, as far as how the veins in the stone could meet and flow throughout the space, he adds.
Back and Forth
Rusk took photos of each slab and uploaded them into a 3D computer program that enabled the design team and a stone artisan to manipulate the slabs in order to establish near-perfect alignments of stone for the project.
“On one axis you’re joining two slabs from consecutive lots, and that’s relatively simple; but in the master shower, you can see on the floor of the shower that they came up with a stone that very beautifully ties into the book-matched stone above it,” John says. “The design team manipulated what was basically a painting, and in the that process, they could line up the veins and colors in the stone to make something look both beautiful and thoughtful.
“It’s a collaborative process,” he continues. “It’s back and forth with the designer, the architect, the stone artisan and our project management team. We’re working to understand what they’re trying to achieve. Sometimes we’ll push back on them, and they’ll push back on us. Then it’s back to the drawing board to see if we can find something beautiful and possible.”
Rusk had to design the stone ceiling in the master bath so that the “floating” mirror could be installed at the end of the project, after the ceiling was put in place. The mirror would not allow for a medicine cabinet.
At the same time, the in-wall toilet uses a remote flushometer push button instead of the standard push plate that provides access to the tank guts in the wall. The team collaborated to design a push latch stone door that flows into the surrounding slabs but hides a medicine cabinet with a removable bottom shelf to access the tank guts. “And voila,” John notes. “One ball, two birds.”
With multiple stakeholders involved in the job and pushing each other, the project truly became a collaboration between the owner, contractor, architect and interior designer, John explains.
“Because this is a such a spectacular space, the client really took pleasure in the overall design of the residence. He knew there was a lot of back and forth, but he kept encouraging the team, and they came through. He is incredibly appreciative of how the whole thing turned out,” John says. “In his words: ‘We remain tremendously pleased with the design and the quality of workmanship, but also just the wonderful way we’ve been able to live in the space and experience our home and the city in such an extraordinary manner.’” QR