As a young man, Mark Berryman led a peripatetic lifestyle, volunteering with the Peace Corps then working for the World Bank, and living in Mali, Washington, D.C., and Istanbul along the way. So when it finally seemed he’d be staying in one place—New York City, where he works in microfinance—he was ready to put down roots.
Berryman found a converted 1864 factory building he loved on the western edge of Manhattan’s Tribeca—where he can run along the edge of the Hudson River with his chocolate Lab, Leji, or easily escape to Long Island for a surf trip. He was living in the building when a smaller yet more desirable apartment with sweeping river views became available there in 2013. He bought it that October, even though interior walls awkwardly sliced up the 1,800-square-foot space.
“When I first saw it, it needed to be renovated,” Berryman says. “Things were old, and the bathrooms needed to be totally redone. They had pink bathtubs and tile in the shower, old carpet, and a stained-glass wall,” that looked, he says, “straight out of a Santa Fe church.” Planning a complete gut renovation, Berryman interviewed four design firms before hiring Brooklyn-based Workstead. “Sitting across the table, we were finishing each other’s sentences,” he says of his initial meeting with the design firm. “It was a great feeling.”
Workstead came back with a plan that included taking down many of the interior partitions, tearing out the drywall ceiling to expose the building’s hefty original fir joists, and painting the existing pipes black. “We wanted to uncover things to celebrate them,” says Workstead partner Robert Highsmith. “We wanted to create an interior that connects with the building’s sense of place.” Now, the ceilings are dropped just a few inches in between the joists, to hide electrical and ventilation components, providing eight to ten additional inches of height and an appealing sense of texture.
From the very beginning, Berryman was on board with the palette, rendering, and inspiration images the Workstead team put forth—with one little tweak: “I loved what they did in the master bathroom so much that I wanted exactly the same thing in the second bathroom,” Berryman recalls. “Otherwise, it was like, Let’s go.”
During the renovation, new construction on the building’s adjacent lots blocked all of the apartment’s windows, except those on the front wall, creating one of the project’s biggest design challenges.
To “bring in the light from the water and sky,” Workstead designed oversize openings to the master bedroom and den, with sliding wood-and-glass doors and curtains that can be pulled across for privacy. Likewise, materials throughout the home maximize the space’s limited light. In the open kitchen, at the rear of the apartment, the designers clad custom cabinets in subtly reflective zinc. “The idea was to create this luminous effect with the metal,” says Highsmith. “It’s alive and changes color throughout the day. The sun sets onto the cabinets, and it glows in this warm, rich way.”
For the two windowless bathrooms, Workstead clad walls in horizontal oak boards to create a sense of enveloping warmth—a move they had seen at 101 Spring Street, the former SoHo home and studio of artist Donald Judd, which is now open to the public. Like Judd’s meticulous furniture designs, the bathrooms Workstead created celebrate the beauty of their raw materials. “You embrace the concept of creating this very intimate, materially rich space,” Highsmith explains, “rather than trying to make it some bright extension of the other rooms.”