Sign of the Times

Posted by: on October 27, 2009

Craig Kellogg — Interior Design, 9/1/2009

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firm: Konyk Architecture

Matthew Malin, cofounder of the puzzlingly parenthetical (Malin + Goetz) luxury beauty brand, is a graduate of both Kiehl’s and Helmut Lang Parfumerie—the latter products being sold at flagships that were masterpieces of minimalism by Gluckman Mayner Architects. Andrew Goetz, for his part, used to serve as U.S. marketing director of furniture-maker Vitra. Clearly, both partners “know the value of design,” Konyk Architecture’s Craig Konyk notes approvingly. To conceive the first (Malin + Goetz) shop, in Chelsea, Konyk took his direction from prototypes for the brand’s utilitarian-chic packaging by the graphics firm 2×4. The crisply detailed boutique opened to rave reviews five years ago, quickly becoming a magnet for the smart set downtown.

The partners returned to Konyk when they needed an uptown retail outpost for their expanding line of products, which have come to include $16 sunscreen with “oil-free absorption technology” and $48 candles with a “cannabis” scent. Malin says he worried about appealing to a “bourgeois” neighborhood where customers would be young mothers with strollers the size of sport utility vehicles. “Housewives had to feel welcome,” Konyk clarifies. The mood that the partners were after couldn’t have contrasted more strongly, however, with the vibe of the old Dominican barbershop that they ultimately rented on the Upper West Side, lured by the corner location.

Lacking the historic-preservation commission’s permission to modernize the facade, Konyk left the careworn barbershop sign in place pending approval of a proposal to use the same typeface to spell out the name (Malin + Goetz). In the meantime, he completed the 400-square-foot interior. The first step was to get beyond the barbershop, rediscovering the 1889 building’s history. Rather than spending money on a new fire barrier for the upstairs apartments, he preserved the original pressed-tin ceiling, painted beige. “It isn’t exactly the best color,” he admits, “but it was there.” The woodwork definitely wasn’t. This paean to 19th-century luxury, which Goetz terms “Madame Bovary paneling,” was salvaged from a Long Island estate.

Installed on the sidewalls, the oak is punctuated by large round cutouts. Some contain shelving, but one is glass, the top of an original arched window that now has its lower portion blocked. “It’s a kind of oculus to pull you into the store and also frame a view out,” Konyk says. The circle motif is playful, with the buoyancy of champagne bubbles, yet bewitchingly counterintuitive in contrast with the belle epoque boiserie. “There’s an intellectual component to the architecture that matches the intellectual component of our brand,” Malin says. Stained medium brown to blend with the paneling, oak strips and oak-veneered plywood surface most of the floor and all of the dropped ceiling, respectively. Several more round cutouts in the latter allow glimpses of the painted tin above, emphasizing the theatricality of the entire installation. “We like having the bones of a building exposed and inserting our world like a stage set,” Goetz explains.

Konyk skipped a display island planned for the center of the floor—not so stroller-friendly in the limited space. At the rear, the cash-wrap desk dominates an alcove lined in cabinets, all lacquered white in support of the idea of cleanliness. With that cabinetry in mind, he suggested a contractor whose bread-and-butter is Manhattan nail parlors completed “in a weekend.” The price was right, the builders were indeed fast, and, of course, they already knew a thing or two about making it big in the Big Apple’s beauty biz.

Photogrpahy by Eric Laignel.

THROUGHOUT LIGHTOLIER: TRACK LIGHTING. THROUGH DEMOLITION DEPOT: PANELING. LONSEAL: VINYL FLOORING. SOSS: DOOR HARDWARE. BENJAMIN MOORE & CO.: PAINT. BAN DO CONSTRUCTION: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.

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