Not long ago I had the opportunity of building a beautiful staircase in a luxurious home in the Upper West side of Manhattan. I had never done a staircase before and building it in a short time while the clients lived in the house required a lot of planning and coordination.

THE MATERIALS: SOLID OAK WOOD AND TAPERED BRASS SPINDLES

The stairs connect five out of the six stories of the house. A small elevator helped us navigate the logistics of going up and down the house when sections of the staircase where temporarily closed. As with many things in life, we started from the bottom and step by step worked our way up.

THE HANDRAILS ARE EBONIZED AND FRENCH POLISHED

The old staircase was all enclosed (see below) and the client wanted something very open, with an airy feeling, that would visually integrate the space. A temporary protective railing system was done with 2 x 4’s and pieces of plywood once we took down the sheetrock walls surrounding the stairs.

THE EXISTING STAIRCASE AND TEMPORARY RAILS DURING CONSTRUCTION

The construction lasted three months and the process had a number unexpected moments of conflict, such as when we discovered that a corridor between the stairs had no support and we had to reinforce it with a huge steel beam that had to be made on very short notice.

THE STAIRCASE IS DEFINED BY SIMPLE DETAILS AND OPEN RAILS

We used white oak with a medium brown stain and three coats of a water based polyurethane coating. The spindles are solid brass and they are regular stock items from a catalog. The most difficult part was the curving handrails which were mounted on top of a steel flange. The job involved coordinating the woodwork with three other trades: a metal shop, a  flooring company and the handrail carpenters.

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A space saving solution scaled for children.

This week I completed and installed the furniture for two girls who share a room in a beautiful Fifth avenue apartment in the Upper East side of Manhattan. I designed a crib on wheels that rolls out from under the bunk bed. In the future, once the baby grows, the crib will be replaced by a twin bed.

The curved ladder has been ergonomically designed for the older sister to go up and down easily. She can grab herself from the vertical supports of the ladder and as she goes up use the circle cut outs as handrails. At the foot of the bed there is a closet with double hanging, a dresser with four drawers and two open shelves.

Under the bed and next to the crib there are 4′ – 4″ tall  bookshelves and a space where children can sit and read or play.

Kids enjoy having spaces designed for their scale and activities. It brings them pride and a sense of belonging as they understand and appreciate that the furniture was created exclusively for them.

When you live in a city apartment, and particularly in New York, there is never enough storage space to hide all your stuff.  In the suburbs people have basements and garages. In the city we hide boxes under the bed. I recently completed four small projects that involved storage, mostly for clothing.

STORAGE CABINETS CAN BE FREE STANDING OR BUILT IN FROM FLOOR TO CEILING

The first project is a free standing closet in a hallway that connects two bedrooms and the kitchen in a large apartment that had not enough closets. This Upper West Side prewar apartment has beautiful moldings, trim and baseboard that I didn’t want to touch. I also wanted to maintain the proportions of this narrow room so for these reasons we designed the cabinet to be detached from the walls and ceiling.

STORING CLOTHES: DRAWERS AT THE BOTTOM AND SHELVES ABOVE

A children’s room. The second project has drawers at the bottom, open shelves in the middle and doors at the top. The lower cabinet serves as a seat or a bench for the children not only to sit on but also to stand on and reach the shelves above.

THE DRAWER FRONTS ARE SHORTER SO YOU CAN SEE WHAT IS INSIDE OF THEM

An entrance hallway. The following cabinet was installed in a hallway entrance of another UWS residence in Manhattan. It has three cubbies for shoe storage at the bottom and hooks behind the doors at the top. The lower cabinet is also a bench where you can sit or tie your shoes.

THIS CABINET WITH CUBBIES IS MADE OF BAMBOO, A SUSTAINABLE MATERIAL

Bedroom cabinets. The last project includes three separate cabinets in a master bedroom. Again, an old apartment with few closets. My clients needed additional storage for clothes and also files. I also created additional counter top space by hanging one of the upper cabinets, spaced 20″apart from the bottom cabinet.

MADE OF MAPLE PLYWOOD, THESE BEDROOM CABINETS INCLUDE FILE DRAWERS

All these storage cabinets are mostly “boxes” with doors or drawers. Behind the doors there can be shelves or a hanging bar. The cabinets are very integrated with the walls and the space that surrounds them. They don’t need to “stick out” but rather blend and disappear as if they had always been there.

For more information on storage solutions please email to rg@robertogil.com

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I had to cover my back yard for a big party and rather than renting a boring tent I built an enclosure out of marine fir plywood and translucent plastic. Then I brought all the furniture outside so I could clear my living room and have space to dance.

The challenge was to cover a span of 14 feet with plywood that is only 8 feet long. So I cut strips of plywood 4″ wide  and joined them with a small piece of plywood and screws. Then I bent them in an arch shape using a very thin steel cable. The bow shaped arches are very light and yet very strong because they are holding the internal tension produced by the chord.

It took only two days to assemble since all the parts were prefabricated in my wood shop. Six columns support the arches and between the columns I created shelves and a counter top.

The marine plywood is good for outdoors so we didn’t do any finishing. For the stool legs we used cedar which is also good for out doors.

Finally, the furniture that normally resides indoors was brought outside for the weekend. The party was a success and this temporary construction could hold about 50 people under it. Bringing the inside to the outside started as a necessity but turned out to be in my view an amusing scene of deliberate artifice.

Check out how it was featured in Apartment Therapy.

www.apartmenttherapy.com

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MILA’S ROOM IN DUMBO

July 10, 2010

I recently completed a girl’s room in a beautiful loft in the heart of DUMBO, Brooklyn. Mila, my 4 year old “client”, needed furniture that would carry her through high school with minor changes. The project was done mostly in natural birch. The pink pulls and accent panels of the dresser and night table can be replaced in the future when and if she grows out of it.

Mila is too young still to sit at a desk so she prefers using the rolling table that we fit under her desk. In a few years she will be ready for it. Next to the desk there is a long bench with drawers full of toys and above them, bookshelves.

Under the long window we built a cabinet that covers the radiator, adds some more storage to the room and and provide a ledge for a small TV. This room has a beautiful light and the natural color of the birch combined with the white and pink of the painted surfaces create a playful, warm and peaceful atmosphere.

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This was one of the most asked questions at the BKLYN DESIGNS show. We exhibited at the St. Anne’s warehouse the weekend of the 10th and the scaled models we displayed attracted a lot of attention both from adults and kids as well.

The short answer is no, this is not doll furniture but the truth is so many requests sparked my curiosity and we may end up doing some modern doll furniture. The scaled models are 1/3 of the size and they are built almost exactly like the real furniture, using the same materials and finishes.

It turned out to be an excellent way of showing many designs in a small booth. We had in display only one real size loft bed and it was surprising to see how easily people would switch from scaled model to real thing when comparing the virtues of one design over another.

By using scaled models we were able to save not only display space but also in plywood and labor costs. Can this be considered “green exhibiting”? Every designer nowadays wants to be “green” and all sorts of claims are made to that respect. I have of course my own claims to be green, starting by designing durable furniture that will not need recycling any time soon.

For more information on our loft beds please email me at rg@casakids.com

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I recently helped my friend Crista Giuliani to design her daughter’s nursery. She wanted Sofia’s room to be all white so we did a custom version of the Ola Crib and painted white the wood rails. The budget was tight so the Ola crib was complemented with classic Ikea dressers lined up under the window.

A curvaceous mid century  armchair upholstered in black leather creates an interesting dialogue with the roundness of the crib. A white, furry, circular rug brings together the contrasting pieces.

The bedding’s polka dots (more circles!) provide a refreshing accent of color to the otherwise neutral environment. I like very much the calmness of this room. It seems very suitable for a baby to grow in. For more information on the Ola crib please visit casakids.com

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I recently completed three display cabinets for an exquisite and unique lingerie store in  downtown NYC, at University Place called La Petite Coquette. They carry very upscale merchandise and cater to a hip, affluent and edgy clientele, models and celebrities included.

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The owner of the store, Rebecca Apsen, wanted something very sexy and functional at the same time and she insisted: “use curves!”. The profile of the display units which are over seven feet tall, have a curvaceous contour, loosely inspired by the shapes of the  female body.

These units serve for display and for storage of lingerie. They have drawers at the bottom, hanging rods and also shelves. It was very important to provide flexibility in their use so I did three separate cabinets with hidden wheels that can be moved around the store and used together or separately.

For the color scheme, well, you can’t go wrong with pink. The yellow drawer fronts eventually will be decorated with hand painted details, same for the sides of the cabinets. It was clear from the beginning that I was creating a basic “shell” that will later be “decorated” by someone else, an artist perhaps.

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Making it work in a small space… I recently completed the room of a nine year old girl who needed a bigger bed with a lot of storage under it and a new desk. Eva, who lives with her parents and her brother Ethan has a small room but all for herself.

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“This room has to last until she goes to college… “The idea was that Eva could grow in this room and still like it as a teenager. Perhaps in the future the pink pulls may be replaced with something less “girlie” but the rest of the furniture should very well survive the passage of time.

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Green materials. We chose a combination of bamboo and formaldehyde free mdf (medium density fiberboard) finished with a non toxic water based paint. Bamboo plywood is a very “green” material, it is hard and it is durable.

bed-1pull
Storage and more storage… The platform bed has six drawers, a pull out tray that acts as a night table and a shoe cabinet behind sliding doors at the foot of the bed. Raising the bed from the floor 30” creates the equivalent storage capacity of a large dresser plus some extra shelf space.

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Floating cabinet… The desk has a hanging cabinet above it. This split creates a more open and lighter feel for the room. Under the desk top there is a pencil drawer and below it and between the two bottom cabinets there is a 6″ wide shelf where all the wires get plugged.

desk-bed
Second time around… As an anecdote, I had designed and built the furniture for this room six or seven years ago when Ethan and Eva used to share it. www.casakids.com. Back then I had done a loft bed with a desk and a small bed for her. Eva, at such young age is now a repeat client. That feels nice!

sketchesevas-room-floor-planLast but not least… Special thanks to the multi talented Fili Perez who collaborated with me in this project and many others.

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FROM RED HOOK, BROOKLYN

January 1, 2010

I have been working in Red Hook since July 2000. I have a full wood shop where we make cabinets and furniture. I have also my design studio and a showroom with samples of my designs. We make scaled models of other pieces to show different configurations.

My shop/studio/showroom is located in a brick warehouse right on the water front, surrounded by a beautiful little park on two sides of the building. My office window faces the park and I never get tired of the changing landscape. The water, the sky and the green are constantly changing colors with the changing of seasons and the time of the day. It’s hard to believe this is also New York.

Red Hook is a great place to work. There are many other shops around: people that do metal work, stone work, glass work or other wood shops that specialize in doors and panels for example. Having all these resources around makes it easy to collaborate with other trades.

front-and-backdetail-facade

Red Hook was much more quiet when I moved my shop here. Now we have Fairway, Ikea, nice restaurants, cool little stores on Van Brunt Street and a growing community of artists and creative people in general that hang out in Baked during the day and in Sunny’s at night.

The Valentino park (my back yard…) has a kayak launch and there is a growing number of enthusiasts that come on a regular basis to get into the water.

kayaksBut perhaps the most inspiring thing is to see the Statue of Liberty from my window. It’s a really pretty monument and has a powerful meaning.statue

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HOME OFFICE IN BAMBOO

December 2, 2009

I recently completed another home office in a spacious loft apartment in downtown New York, in the neighborhood of Tribeca. My client and old friend Nelba Valenzuela Delmedico, an art dealer, lives with her husband and their daughter in a converted office building and works from home.

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Even though their apartment has a separate study, Nelba likes to work in the main room of the house, so we had to design the bookshelves and the desk in such a way that could coexist with the rest of the furniture in their living/dinning room.

BEFORE AND AFTER

BEFORE AND AFTER

It seemed obvious to place the desk close to the window, just as Nelba had it. The challenge was to integrate it into the whole unit and make it as less “invasive” as possible. The actual desk is like a box with drawers that cantilevers from the bookshelves.

nelba-1

WIRE MANAGEMENT

WIRE MANAGEMENT

PRINTER PULL OUT BEHIND SLIDING DOORS

PRINTER PULL OUT BEHIND SLIDING DOORS

nelba-looking-up

From the start, both my client and I decided to use bamboo. It is a sustainable wood, it is hard and durable and looks beautiful in its natural amber tone. The bamboo plywood is composed by many small strips of bamboo glued together in a triple layered 3/4″ thick “sandwich”. It is a very stable, flat sheet of material that allowed me to create this system where the shelves are a few inches cantilevered from the vertical supports.

nelba-drawer

Going “green” is not only about using sustainable materials but also about creating products that will last a life time. It’s about designing and building furniture that is strong and durable and flexible enough to adapt to different uses and different locations.

Last but not least, my design process is based on the efficient use of materials and the refinement of its proportions rather than going after a particular “look” or “style”. It has been my experience that when you design with common sense, focusing on the functionality and the durability of the product, beauty may result as a welcomed sub product of this effort.

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I recently completed a home office in a beautiful 3 bedroom loft apartment in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). My clients, Dr. Brian and Magdalena Levy wanted a desk for their computer and storage cabinets for their files to be built in a corner of their loft.

gral-view-1

We came up with a “U” shaped configuration wrapping around the space and a hanging cabinet in one corner. In the middle section of the “U” we created a removable cover for the radiator.
I placed the desk under the main window, directly looking at the Manhattan Bridge.

beforeafter

Before and after: from chaos to organization, the new built in furniture can make work at home a much more enjoyable experience.

desk

drawerfile-drawers

There are four file drawers in the corner cabinet. A hanging bookcase above holds catalogs, boxed files and paper.

From initial sketch to completed fabrication the project took 8 weeks to complete.

sketch

For price information and other questions please contact me through the contact page.

VIEW FROM THE WINDOW OF THE MANHATTAN BRIDGE

VIEW FROM THE WINDOW OF THE MANHATTAN BRIDGE


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A COLORFUL DESK

October 8, 2009

I recently designed and built this cabinet for a nine year old city kid who has many books, an iMac, a bunch of games and spends a lot of time in his bedroom. His mom, Ellen Diamant is the owner of Skip Hop, a hip NY based company that produces baby products including the trendiest diaper bags in the market. Ellen, a designer herself and a big fan of mid century furniture, really liked a piece I had done before in a sort of Jean Prouve-meets-Donald Judd style and asked me to design something for her child with a similar look.

general-view

So we came up with this eight feet long unit that has a desk at the bottom and bookshelves above. It has drawers of different sizes and open and closed storage compartments. We used Baltic birch in a natural finish and MDF (medium density fiberboard) with a clear coat as well as with colored paint.

cable-management1

But looks aren’t all and functionality is a big issue in modern desks. Under the counter top there is a very discreet wire management shelf where all the equipment gets plugged. There are no wires hanging or sitting on the floor.

computer

Designing for another designer is always extra challenging. Ellen has a great eye for color and proportion and she was not easy to please… It took many revisions to reach the right design. The main thing: her son likes it and uses it a lot.

a-perspective-1

This project took 6 weeks to produce but the whole process including design consultation, site visits, sample and shop drawing approvals extended over a longer period of time.

For more information please go to the contact page.


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PORTRAITS IN DUMBO

August 28, 2009

“I rarely have the opportunity of observing so many kids use my furniture in such a short period of time…”
The best thing that happened during the Brooklyn Designs show last May was having so many kids try my furniture. Although most times parents select the furniture for their children the greatest thing is when kids themselves really like it. I can see it in their faces. Kids are drawn to the furniture that they recognize as for their size and taste.
So during the show I took a bunch of pictures of kids using the furniture or posing as if they were. It has always been important as part of my design research to study how children interact with the furniture and be able to make improvements based on these types of observations. Click on the image to enlarge. Thanks.


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THE BKLYN DESIGN SHOW

May 28, 2009

The past May 9-12 we did the annual Brooklyn Design show in DUMBO. It was a really good show. We had some new designs and some of the old ones too. We had a fantastic spot for the exhibition: the carousel space that is next door to St. Ann’s warehouse on Water Street that belongs to Jane Walentas (picture on the right with me). Jane’s carousel is temporarily housed there until the Brooklyn waterfront park is ready to host it permanently. Jane very kindly offered the space for the show and that’s how we could have our furniture there for the long weekend. See pictures below! Also check out her link to Jane’s Carousel.

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The most popular design at the Brooklyn Designs show last May was the DUMBO loft bed. This elevated bed has an adjustable desk and lots of storage. The cabinets are modular and they can be oriented towards the outside or the inside of the bed.
The storage cabinet can be used for books, toys or clothes. Doors are optional. We make the loft bed to order in our Brooklyn shop. We can also customize colors, heights and pretty much anything. We also install it in your home.

loft-bed-1

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