Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Gamut of Organic Glam: Inside N. Bethesda Market


By Beth Herman

Winning the recent National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) National Pillars Award for Multi-Family Interior Merchandising, designers Carlyn Guarnieri and JoAnn McInnis of Carlyn & Company spent years in an unwitting fits and starts execution of the mixed-use North Bethesda Market, 11351 Woodglen Drive.

Commissioned with interior architecture and design for all of the Market’s residential amenities and common areas in the high-and mid-rise buildings, the resulting design accommodated a cost revision process that went through numerous economy-dictated iterations.

“The challenge was to make sure the job retained some integrity with the budget we were handed after it was value engineered to within inches of its life,” McInnis quipped, citing the project’s original start date in 2007 vis-à-vis a capricious economy. The other challenge was to aesthetically knit together two structures, which share amenities, and which was ultimately achieved with a kindred color palette and textures. The design approach that characterized the two interiors was affectionately labeled “organic glam” by Guarnieri and McInnis, defined by earthy but elegant components.

“We knew there was going to be a Whole Foods (retail anchor) in the North Bethesda Market community,” said Guarnieri. “In a very subtle but sophisticated way, we wanted to pick up some of the (store’s) natural textures and colors, with the idea to create a dramatic presence in the residential spaces of this high profile project.”

Beginning with a 1,370 s.f. high-rise lobby, the designers were challenged as much by the ovoid shape of the space as its exceedingly high ceilings. Several marble-clad columns were added around an existing structural column to create a rhythm that just made the space feel right, and cove-like detailing and lighting and an undulating ceiling form offset the space’s height. Floor tiles are a combination of neutral stone and porcelain—also seen in the tower’s 15th floor 1,570-s.f. fitness center.
A wall behind the concierge desk has a custom plaster detail with undulating waves that complement the ceiling piece, a motif continued in the club area of the mid rise building to help tie the two structures together.

Behind the high-rise lobby seating area, a taupe metallic back-painted wall flanks a giant giraffe graphic that, according to Guarnieri and McInnis, was not intended to trumpet the fact that at 24 stories, the building is the tallest in Montgomery County (though it’s OK to presume so!). “We also put some very unusual furniture in there,” Guarnieri said, referencing a natural woven Hyacinth Reed art bench in front of the giraffe image in limited edition: only three are currently in existence. “The pieces of furniture overall had to have a very sculptural look to them because the space had so much volume—with kind of a stark look to it, though not severe,” Guarnieri said.

Fabric, flow and fun

In the four-story mid-rise building, a mohair lobby banquette received a tufted fabric panel on the wall behind it. Comprised of textured one-inch marble squares of varying depth, with a stainless steel reveal, the wall itself adds dimension to a quiet space in neutral hues. Surrounding chairs are linen with metallic, and a fluid oval coffee table is stone with a stainless steel base. In a cost-saving measure, the wood column isn’t millwork but rather drywall with a wood vinyl wall covering.

Upstairs, “drama and flow” were achieved in a 1,000 s.f. club room area with bar and pool table, some of which wrapped around a pool deck, with few windows and low ceilings which prescribed another design challenge. Manifested in drywall, paint and red oak plus walnut flooring, a bright design element was teased over the bar, down the back wall and then through the floor. A long white acrylic horizontal strip with a silky texture to it—and which is backlit—completes the design and illuminates the bar area beneath two flat screen TV’s. The front of the bar is corrugated stainless steel colored laminate, with a brown IceStone (recycled glass) countertop. Recessed and simple pendant lighting gives warmth and dignity to the area, and cozy, distinct, modular seating groups in earth tones, some of which contain leather upholstered boomerang chairs, provide comfort and intimacy. The chairs and some retro art lend a fun, edgy quality to the space.

“We definitely tried to use green materials from the beginning,” McInnis said, reaffirming the challenge to create warm, prominent spaces in light of evolving economic parameters.

“In the end, the design is very approachable and comfortable,” Guarnieri affirmed. “We have great shapes, great forms and great drama.”

Photos courtesy of Alan Goldstein

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