The Curious Creative
Described by Wallpaper magazine as “one of the best restaurant and hotel designers of his generation,” the acclaimed Swedish designer Martin Brudnizki now casts his spell over the Thompson’s newest family member, the historic Beekman in lower Manhattan.
The rich architectural history of the building—which features a nine-story atrium punctuated by a dazzling pyramidal skylight—is just one of the decorative elements that inspired his design. “The atrium will act as the theatrical centrepiece to the hotel, a new stage where the New York social scene can gather across a selection of intimate seating areas,” says Brudnizki. “The overall aesthetic is lovingly worn and authentic but with an edge of luxury,” he adds. “We’ve achieved this by using the best materials and working with artisans and craftsmen who have created beautiful furniture and fixtures. We’ve also incorporated antique finds into the design, further enhancing the rich sense of history already established within the building.”
Here, he shares how to recreate this luxe aesthetic at home, how his native city of Stockholm has influenced his work, his favourite three buildings in NYC, and more.
Is there evidence of your home city of Stockholm in your work?
Growing up in Stockholm has undoubtedly influenced my design aesthetic. One of my greatest influencers is Gunnar Asplund who designed the Stockholm Public Library; his ability to translate a sense of history and belonging into something contemporary and ready for modern-day consumption has always captured my imagination and this has seeped into my work.
What struck you most about the former Temple Court space when you first walked in?
The Atrium. It’s nine-stories and features the most beautiful decorative detailing in the form of dragons, flowers and sunbursts and of course the pyramidal skylight, crowning the space and bathing it with light.
How did the history of the building inform your design?
The rich architectural story of Temple Court guided the design of the hotel. The building has a distinctive Queen Anne exterior in New York’s iconic red brick. Whilst the interior showcases a dilapidated yet beautiful interior that emits a sort of Bretonian beauty. With such provenance and intrigue we knew the new interior had to tell its own story but one which would complement the history of the building. The nine-story atrium has been diligently restored to its former grandeur, with Victorian wrought iron railings and balustrades. The pyramidal skylight has been cleaned to once again bathe the space in light. The atrium will act as the theatrical centrepiece to the hotel, a new stage where the New York social scene can gather across a selection of intimate seating areas.
How do you approach a space? Do you let it “speak” to you before coming up with your ideas?
With any project harnessing a sense of history and heritage is of paramount importance to me. At the Studio we always begin a project by looking at its context and immediate surroundings. Once this has been established we begin to think about how we can make the space work for our client, how furniture can be used to enhance the look and finally how the overall aesthetic can inspire an emotional response from the client and guests. With The Beekman there was an overwhelming sense of history and intrigue hidden behind years of neglect; I couldn’t ignore this and felt this deep rooted sense of narrative needed to be revealed for a new generation to experience.
What are the themes for The Beekman design? Do you ever combine seemingly conflicting aesthetics to create a look or to maximize the energy of a space?
The Beekman has been such a wonderful canvas to work with; it wasn’t blank but it had a quality about it that was malleable to styles and themes. We felt the overarching look would be akin to traveller’s drawing room, filled with curiosities, antiques and artwork. To keep the look and ambience reflective of New York’s burgeoning Downtown scene we blended an eclectic mix of furniture with an exquisite colour palette and the rawness of the original architectural detailing. We’ve introduced many textures surfaces, including Persian rugs, mohair velvet and leather; the whole hotel is about discovery and following in the footsteps of explorers.
What design elements have you used at The Beekman that are unique to the space?
The building is so unique we felt this really dictated the rest of the design; there’ not a single place like this in New York. With this in mind we were keen to include as many bespoke items as possible, ensuring an honest feeling was kept throughout. The bookcases for example, are exquisitely made and crafted from the richest of materials. To me, this is the best way to elevate a space.
What are the best (and easiest) ways to create intimacy and warmth at home?
Lighting is key. You have to have a variety of pendants and lamps at different levels to create a warm glow. Also don’t be afraid to play with colour, textures and materials; for instance, mixing woods with velvet, leather and wool. I also encourage clients to mix different styles as I feel this helps create a more intimate ambience. As long as the same person curates the furnishings, they will all share an emotional language.
What are your three favourite New York interiors that are open to the public?
Other than The Beekman, I’ll go for The Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building, Trans World Flight Centre at JFK, and The Cunard Building.
Can you share three of your go-to design shops or boutiques in New York?
ABC Carpets and Home, The End of History, Bernd Goeckler Antiques