Forget the loft: The newest trend in luxury real estate is walls

Walls - Anchor copy

MANHATTAN / Bloomberg

For Wendy Maitland, Town Residential’s president of sales, an Oscar-winning director client of hers was a typical real estate shopper with typical requests.
He had a seven-figure budget and was keen to buy into one of the many new luxury condo complexes sprouting around Manhattan.
Maitland showed him multiple locations until they whittled his choice down to two: one a luxe development on the Upper East Side, the other a new building downtown, in SoHo. The clincher for her client was a second opinion from someone he trusted—but it wasn’t his life partner, an interior decorator, or even a feng shui master. It was his art consultant.
“We sent her CAD drawings, and she went to [the house in] Connecticut to inventory and measure everything. She checked the ceiling heights, the volume, and the wall space,” explains Maitland, “Every space in the apartment had to be approved by the art consultant.”
It wasn’t a request that fazed Wendy—in fact, she wasn’t even surprised. It’s becoming increasingly essential in new luxury developments to engineer them expressly as art-friendly spaces. The new rule in this art-loving world can be summed up simply: more walls, fewer windows.
Ian Schrager has adopted a new phrase on blueprints for his latest project, 160 Leroy: Plentiful numbers of blank walls are tagged as so-called art walls. “These are walls large enough and with high ceilings that can accommodate the large paintings of modern art, as well as art from other periods,” he said, “It also allows for a visually prominent display with appropriate lighting.”
Developer Joe McMillan of DDG has embraced the term, too. “Every grand room now needs at least one art wall,” he says by phone from his Manhattan office. At his new retro-styled building, 180 East 88th Street, McMillan has gone even further, inverting the rule that new buildings should emphasize light to the exclusion of everything else.
“We spaced the windows, which are 9 feet by 9 feet, far apart enough from each other so you have large expanses of white wall between them, discrete spaces to hang your art. There’s a window acting as a picture frame on the city, a large expansive white space where you can hang some art, and then another window.”
Increasingly, interior walls are not only more plentiful; they’re designed much like those of a museum or gallery. At 180 East 88th, McMillan has installed a picture rail system similar to that used at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “No one likes having holes punched in their walls, and for an art-centric buyer, this allows you to minimize that. It enables you to rotate pieces easily, even if they’re not the same size.”
A similar throwbackish touch is incorporated into the Marquand, a lavish conversion of an early 20th-century apartment block. In these apartments, designer Lee Mindel created long hallways—again, extra walls—to act as interior galleries, safe from the sun and with molding that acts as a picture rail.
In Tadao Ando’s upcoming project in Nolita, 152 Elizabeth Street, commercial-grade humidity systems were installed so that a constant moisture point can easily be maintained around fragile artwork in any of the homes. Instead of using basic plaster to finish new developments, it now offers drywall reinforced by plywood—the same system used at most galleries, since it’s stronger and requires less maintenance when hanging art.

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