Volume 20, Number 42 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 13 - 19, 20100
“The challenge was to bring light deep into the space,” said architect Sandro Marpillero of his 3,600-square-foot loft on Duane Street. He and wife cut out the walls of a dark basement to create an outdoor garden and patio.
One Tribeca family transformed a raw warehouse space, with exposed beams and bricks, into a luxurious three-bedroom loft. Large steel skylights on the loft’s first and second floors provide the space with ample natural light.
Colorful doors connect the boy’s and girl’s bedrooms for late-night chats.
Marpillero’s wife and co-worker, Linda Pollak, explains how the couple recycled the loft’s interior metal fire shutters, part of the original industrial space, into the large cupboard doors of her kitchen.
River pebbles line the walls of the family’s snazzy bathroom. The sink counter is composed of “end grain” bamboo, and the light fixtures are hand-blown glass from high-end lighting designer, "Niche Modern.”
Designer Sherri Donghia’s colorful home is “a college of our lives and my work,” she said. She purchased the white cabinet, originally from Indonesia, at a store in SoHo in the 1980s. The delicate glassware that sits atop the shelves are from Venice.
Loft tours, a beloved park and stewardship
BY Aline Reynolds
Tribeca residents will be able to replenish their maintenance budget for their beloved Duane Park and continue its upkeep, thanks to the Inside Tribeca Loft Tour, an annual fundraising event.
The second-oldest park in New York City, in the heart of Tribeca, was once a “run-down space,” according to neighborhood resident Jenny McAllister-Nevins.
“The community stood together and decided to do something about it,” said McAllister-Nevins.
So in 1995, a group of Tribeca residents formed a nonprofit, Friends of Duane Park, to spruce it up. McAllister-Nevins is president of the group, which meets once a month to discuss ways to improve the park. A pair of board members is responsible for clean-up each week.
“We have planting days and a regular cleaning schedule,” McAllister-Nevins said.
Members of F.D.P. also re-landscape the green space.
In June, the group installed a costly automatic watering system – previously, Tribeca resident Oliver Allen, one of the founding members of F.D.P., would water the park by hand.
“We had to get out there with a hose, which we attached to a hydrant on Hudson Street,” he recalled.
Allen, an author who has written professionally about gardening, also cares for the flowers and trees in the park.
“I do it because it’s my duty,” he said. “The park is a lovely thing, and it’s nice to take care of it.”
Local schools celebrate Spring Day and Halloween in the park, which is often the backdrop for feature and independent films. In 1999, the group initiated the loft tour, its major annual fundraiser, to generate between $15,000 and $20,000 each year for the park. Each participant pays $50 to visit 11 occupied lofts in the area. The event typically sells out or comes close to selling out.
McAllister-Nevins and other group members reach out to their neighbors with lofts of all sizes and designs, asking if they would like to volunteer to be part of the tour. “There is something really special about people letting you into this intimate space,” McAllister-Nevins said.
The goal, she continued, is to vary the tour in order to engage the participants in a dialogue about architecture and furnishing. “The whole point is to have a diverse group of lofts that represent the range of homes in Tribeca,” she said. “I hear everyone arguing about what their favorite lofts are, because they’re so different.”
F.D.P. also organizes the Trees for Tribeca program for residents who collectively come up with $1,800 to have trees installed in front of their buildings.
Once a shoe factory
Linda Pollak and her husband, Sandro Marpillero, live and work at 132 Duane Street, a building dating back to 1860. In 2000, she and her husband converted a dark, empty basement into a fully furnished living room and kitchen. The first and mezzanine floors hold the couple’s private chambers and office space.
The home occupancy loft was once a shoe factory. “It was [originally] built to be an industrial space,” Pollak said. “We made it to have light and air, and to support habitation.”
She and her husband turned a rusty fire door into the front door that dates back to the original space. “The point is to expand the notion of sustainability in terms of a very committed recycling of all the materials that we would encounter as we transformed the space,” she said.
They took old wooden beams from the floor of the basement and made counters and steps out of them. The frame holding up the exterior shutters on floor one was used as a separation between the home and office space, and the metal shutters in the basement were used as metal doors to the pantry in the kitchen.
Reconfiguring the objects “has a lot to do with reuse and bringing forward into the 21st century places that were built with something different in mind,” Pollak explained.
Duane Park, a block away from their home, was one of the reasons the couple moved to Tribeca in 2000. “When [my stepdaughter] was younger, we used to do Taste of Tribeca, which was sort of grounded there,” she said.
Pollak recalls the first time she walked through Tribeca with her family about a decade ago. “It was so beautiful,” she said. “I understood how different the space of Tribeca was than any other place that I had seen in the city.”
Home as laboratory
Sherri Donghia and Roger Eulau’s home at 166 Duane Street is a three-bedroom apartment with a colorful array of furniture pieces. The building was erected in 1914 and housed offices until the 1990s, when it was partitioned into residential lofts.
“My home is my laboratory,” said Donghia, a design consultant who dresses her couches and pillows with fabrics from around the world. “I collect things from everywhere and work with different mills to create exclusive fabrics.”
The furniture and trinkets come from Turkey, Afghanistan, India, China, Thailand and elsewhere. “This contemporary slipper chair was inspired by ancient mountain tribe people who do importeries,” she said, pointing to the piece. The fabric on the back of her sofa, decorated with metal embroidery, is an antique Venetian textile that Donghia designed.
Donghia hung Japanese obis, fabrics that Japanese women wrap around their garments and dresses, along the sides of a long black table she found during a visit to China. And on the wall of her home office hangs a Venetian-style mirror that Donghia designed for a client using the old technique of Venetian glassmaking on Murano, an island off the eastern coast of Italy. “It’s like a collage of our lives and our travels for my work,” she said of the furnishing.
Donghia is a big fan of Duane Park. In addition to participating in the tour, she makes donations to F.D.P. for its upkeep. “It’s a peaceful oasis,” she said. “I thought it was good thing to do the tour because I get a lot of enjoyment out of the park.”
The 2010 annual Inside Tribeca Loft Tour takes place on Sunday, October 17. For more information, visit duanepark.org.