Thursday, January 19, 2017
The Elevator Lobby
Private elevator lobbies and vestibules- it's been quite some time since I've seen one appear in print. Granted, these bijou spaces are not very common, existing mostly in cosmopolitan, residential high-rises where they usually serve as private entrances to sprawling, whole-floor apartments. More discreet and gracious than an elevator that pitches people directly into an apartment, an elevator lobby offers visitors a moment of anticipation before entering an apartment's front door. Think of them as an aesthetic greeting, one that serves as a sign of things to come once inside the apartment's realm.
I was recently charmed by two images of elevator lobbies that were published in 1930. The photograph at the top of this post shows an elevator entrance with "walls painted black, with panels of antique etched glass. The ceiling is silver and a contrasting floor in black terrazzo." Now, that's chic. Even more elaborate is the lobby immediately below this text: "In the elevator foyer there are alternating panels of black and silver glass with a scalloped valance of gold glass and a draped ceiling of yellow satin. The floor is black with silver metal inserts. The console is black and gold." I find the gold-mirrored, scalloped valance, which serves as a transition between the fabric-draped ceiling and mirrored walls, to be particularly clever.
Of course, an elevator lobby doesn't have to be over-the-top in order to be stylistically effective. Mark Hampton created a classically-inflected, barrel-vaulted vestibule for one client (see below), while the elevator lobby of Anne Bass's apartment is rather calm-looking. But, like Carroll Petrie, whose shimmery vestibule I included below, I think elevator vestibules seem made for mirror or, though lacking the enticing quality of reflection, an astounding mural. After all, these spaces are usually so small, why not lavish them with wit, whimsy, or a dash of theatricality?
Image #3 from Manhattan Style; #4 and #6 from New York Apartments: Private Views; #5 from Private New York