Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space

December 28, 2017
Amanda Zimmerman
Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space

Reimagining a space takes creative vision, but when that space is a lower Manhattan landmark spanning three apartments—two of which are connected to the third by a public passageway—it takes an entirely new level of ingenuity and skill.

A Symphony in Teak

At the heart of the transformation is a wood prized for its elegance and durability. Eisenhardt Mills’ master craftsmen machined solid 12/4 teak to form the stair treads, shelves and handrail—no small feat considering the fluid shapes of the project’s modern design aesthetic. Using a 4-axis CNC router, artisans carefully ran and fixtured the organic shapes of the teak treads and necks, then created pockets for the internal steel cores, carefully minimizing the appearance of any required seams.

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(This is the 5-head moulder. Treads oxidizing in preparation for finish.)

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(Solid teak neck for the underside of the Teak stair treads.)

Teak’s light sensitivity added another layer of complexity to the project. Over time, exposure to air and sun will turn teak from a yellowish-green to a honey brown color. Eisenhardt’s craftsmen accommodated for this variable by accelerating the oxidation process. Laying the pieces out in bright sunlight, before applying stain and topcoat, brought them closer to that final warm golden hue, allowing for much greater control of the finished color and product.

No symphony is complete without an ensemble of instruments; for this project, teak harmonized with steel, drywall, and GFRG. Both stairs and shelves incorporated internal steel support structures that required coordination with the steel fabricator. Since each trade built upon the one before it, there was no room for error or adjustment. Eisenhardt Mills designed and manufactured custom setting jigs so that the GFRG could be accurately set, and spackled and finish painting the stairwell before setting the teak treads.

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(Mezzanine stair showing the powder coated steel treads and GFRG center base in place.)

Doorways to Grandeur

The project’s incorporation of clean, elegant lines, coupled with the sheer scale of the great doors on the north wall, called for a high level of innovation and technical skill. At 3” x 5’-7” x 10’-10”, each door weighed approximately 450 lbs. Commercially available sheet stock tops out at 5’-0”, so Eisenhardt’s artisans joined two sheets together with a quirk in the center, to cover the face of the doors. Seven enormous door panels had to be individually crated and hoisted via crane through the sixth-floor window to enter the apartment.

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(The large living room doors during the manufacturing phase.)

The doors swing effortlessly from the center in a butterfly fashion on German-made Frits Jurgens hinges with a weight-bearing capacity of 1,000 lbs. per door. Eisenhardt Mills imported AGS frames from Italy. Engineered with no visible casings, AGS frames allow the doors to close flush with the walls, maintaining their monolithic design. Many of the doors swing on Tectus hinges a mere 1/8” from the 7’-0” ceilings under the mezzanine.

Eisenhardt’s craftsmen added Zero Seals to seal out the sound created by the doors’ concealed mechanical units. Precision was required in order,  to ensure the doors aligned exactly with the Zero Seals and maintained a flush condition when closed. The doors have no latches or visible handles and are held shut solely by the polarity of opposing magnets.

Master Bath Masterpiece

The Corian ceiling in the master bath needed to be lightweight, so that built-in access panels could swing open with ease. Eisenhardt’s artisans laminated ¼” Corian to an aluminum honeycomb core for strength and rigidity without heft.

An accompanying master dressing room presented the unique challenge of not having a single square corner in the room. The polygon-shaped space received a custom lay up of teak veneer with very tight reveals at the floor and ceiling. Precision was required  yet again, as cabinets were expertly placed in a space that trult left no room for error. The back of one of the open cabinets doubles as a functioning access panel.

The smooth, elegant lines continue with expansive flush walls within these walls; hang five doors with concealed jambs, swinging on Tetus hinges that afford only a 3.5 mm gap between door and wall.

A Mezzanine Transformed

The design of the mezzanine sleep loft called for the total transformation of the space into a shearling-lined oasis. Ceiling, wall, and floors were covered in shearling, and had to be broken into components that could be upholstered and then reassembled within the sleep loft. In keeping with the grand scale of many of the space’s design elements, the sleep loft façade required four men and the artist to wrestle into position between the wall and a truss that was obstructing the way.

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(Curved ceiling panels being installed along the north wall of the sleeping loft.)

The mezzanine’s teak shelves are another testament to the coordinated artistry of three trades, boasting an internal steel support cantilevered from the wall and surrounded by GFRG. Eisenhardt Mills created custom setting jigs to position the GFRG correctly to the shelves. Each trade needed to execute flawlessly, since the wall was finish painted prior to setting the teak shelves; and an error at any step in the process would have marred the final product.

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(The largest winged mezzanine shelf sits in the mill in Easton, PA after being shaped on the CNC router.)

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(Mezzanine teak shelves during installation.)

Each shelf has a steel insert wrapped with imported Spanish leather, and secured with magnets that are embedded in the teak and steel shelf core. Every aspect of the design, manufacture, and installation required extensive coordination and precise calibration to maintain the reveals around the inserts and cores, yet still allow for the natural expansion and contraction of the solid wood.

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(The mezzanine south wall before GFRG is installed. The lower winged shelf shows its metal interior prior to the leather-wrapped insert being placed.)

A project of this magnitude requires a dedicated team of skilled artisans and a detail oriented support team. Eisenhardt Mills shop employees Carl (Butch) Achenbach, Stephen Berta, Jim Brown, John Godfrey, Daryl Green, Joey Kressly, Ron Kroboth, Keith Land, Brett Ottinger, Tom Scheirer, Mike Swinger, Kenny Wehr, and Bill Zona fabricated and installed the custom millwork for this landmark renovation. The project was supported as well, by Eisenhardt Mills’ employees Tina Skodacek, Mary Kay Puzinas, Mick Comito, Sam Cousins, Mike Elston, and James Zdepski.

Photo Gallery

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(Topcoated teak drawers.)

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(The mezzanine south wall during installation.)

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(The south bedroom closet, closed.)

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(Solid teak necks for the underside of the teak stair treads.)

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(Teak stair treads after being shaped on the CNC router.)

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(The underside of the mezzanine winged shelf being cut on the CNC router.)

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space

Custom millwork transforms benchmark Manhattan space
(Mezzanine teak shelves during installation.)