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?


The 1930 elevator foyer with the yellow satin-draped ceiling.


Although this Dorothy Draper-decorated elevator lobby was not a private lobby, the design seems conducive to elevator vestibules and entrance halls alike.


This vestibule was conceived by Mark Hampton.  The walls are painted to appear as if constructed of stone blocks.


In this 1990 photo of the elevator lobby leading to Anne Bass's apartment, the space's walls were faux-painted to mimic the marble floors.


The mirrored vestibule of the late Carroll Petrie's apartment.


Image #3 from Manhattan Style; #4 and #6 from New York Apartments: Private Views; #5 from Private New York

14 comments:

  1. They are all fabulous. What could be more chic?

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    1. So glad you found these examples as chic as I did! :)

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  2. Why not indeed. Personally, I like a mirror near the front door or vestibule or lobby. This way anyone coming or going gets a chance to make sure their appearance isn't askew. I love to see a bold color or interesting wall treatment in a smal lobby or vestibule. A very indifferent approach to this space as a guest makes me sad.

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    1. So true. Mirror in the entry hall or elevator vestibule is not only glamorous, but practical, too.

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  3. Thanks for these images. I imagine pretty much all of these spaces would be found in my hometown, NYC. These lavish little jewels may seem over the top to out-of-towners, but they are, in essence, the front yards, or curb appeal, of well to do New Yorker's flats. You are right, mirror in some form, if only a traditional framed one, is de riquer for these spaces, as sparkle in a windowless space, and as practicality for quests arriving to make last minute adjustments.

    Love the Dorthy draper one, which is located in Hampshire House on Central Park South. I walked in as a teen once and was blown away by the lobby space. In those days, the doormen were proud of their building and most understanding to visitors.

    The Mark Hampton space is a tour de force on a shoe string, relatively speaking. Coffered mural wallpaper on the vault, mirror insets in the half moon vault ends and the whole ceiling area set off from the lower section by a discreet cornice. This, with the faux ashlar stone walls and the graphic stone floor give an impression of solidity and timelessness; the mirrors bouncing light from the chandelier back into the windowless space, almost as if there are two windows by Serlio in place.

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    1. Exactly. That is wallpaper on the ceiling in Mark Hampton's "tour de force". Nothing better. The entire thing is magical. And on a shoe string; no less. Brilliant.
      My favorite by far. Breathtaking. I hope it is still there.....just as it was.

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    2. The Mark Hampton example is particularly striking, I think.

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  4. These are fairy tale spaces. Thank you. xoxo Mary

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    1. Mary, You are most welcome. Hope you have a nice weekend.

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  5. Elevator lobbies and powder rooms are a licence to go a little over the top with glamour- if it is a bit too much, well, you don't have to linger there

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    1. I agree...as far as I'm concerned, there is no such thing as too much glamour.

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  6. Anonymous2:24 PM

    I've read descriptions of a spectacular elevator lobby that Jansen did for the Paleys - glass panels held in place over marbleized paper by ormolu rosettes - but never seen any pictures of it.

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