NY condo takes a leaf from Japanese playbook

Interior designer embraces "wabi-sabi", or the art of beauty in imperfection

New York

THE Church of the Redeemer, which was built in 1866 in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill, mirrored the Gothic style of mediaeval churches in Europe. The condominium building rising in its place, however, looks towards Japan for inspiration.

Ryoko Okada, a principal and director of interior architecture and design at ODA New York, said she tapped into the Japanese aesthetics of "wabi-sabi", or the art of finding beauty in imperfection, when designing 561 Pacific.

"It's about finding natural materials that have an unconscious aesthetic," she said of the many warm brown and grey materials she chose. The wood, stone, concrete and steel used in the interior all have knots and grains with subtle imperfections, some of which will also change over time, she said. "It's about celebrating what's naturally incomplete."

Ms Okada, a native of Japan, said the wooden slats found in the entryway of the 63-unit building resembles "koshi", or wooden lattice entryways and window coverings found in traditional wooden townhouses in Japan called "machiya". It allows some light in, but also keeps the entryway private, Ms Okada said.

The hallway in the ground-level lobby lounge is made with light grey concrete-look porcelain tiling, with dark solid wood and metal inlays separating each slab. This is inspired by "tobi-ishi", or stepping-stone, and "roji", a lush, garden path that leads to a teahouse. Both are Japanese design features that make you consciously focus on where you are walking and block the outer world.

"I thought it would be great if residents can use the same thought process, where you can consciously start decompressing from the outside chaos when you get home," Ms Okada said.

The building is in a particularly hectic area, just a block from the major traffic intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and Fourth avenues, and close to the Barclays Center and the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center shopping complexes.

Developed by Adam America Real Estate, the 12-storey building will offer studios from US$550,000, one-bedrooms from US$850,000, two bedrooms from US$1.375 million, and three-bedrooms from US$2.275 million. Over a third of the apartments will come with a private outdoor space. Sales start later this month. Building amenities include a gym, a playroom, a rooftop sun deck with barbecue and dining stations, and bike storage. Sixteen parking spaces will be available for purchase for US$150,000 each.

The building, expected to be finished early next year, will also have about 7,000 square feet of ground floor retail space available.

Like other parts of the city, the Brooklyn condominium market was slower in the fall and winter months, but the mood has been rather upbeat from the start of the year, said Brendan Aguayo, senior vice-president and a director at Halstead Property Development Marketing, the firm in charge of sales. Mr Aguayo said he has seen a large increase in traffic, demand and deal velocity as interest rates have stabilised.

"Brooklyn condominium buyers are very sophisticated," Mr Aguayo said, noting their desire for "everything", including high-end interior finishes, proximity to transportation and a vibrant neighbourhood.

"I think this building is on the forefront of the shift happening on Fourth Avenue and the renaissance of this corridor," he said, referring to an anticipated rezoning of nearby Gowanus.

"Wabi-sabi embraces the imperfect and accepts that change happens," Ms Okada said when describing the building's Japanese design inspiration. It's a notion that works extremely well for a calm, welcoming home, but is undoubtedly hard for some neighbours to swallow as their immediate surrounding gets denser.

For those nostalgic for the Episcopal church that once stood here, one relic remains. A well-preserved mosaic tile that signalled the prominence of the church, which closed in 2010, still exists in the north-west subway exit on the corner of Pacific and Fourth Avenue. NYTIMES

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