5th Avenue Lobby

The renovation of this beautiful arched and coffered ceiling ended up being a very complex project, due in part to the fact that it was in the middle of a busy lobby.

Before Before

1905 arched and coffered ceiling pre-restoration (click to enlarge)

We started by exploring treatment ideas with our architect, Oliver Cope. We soon realized that the condition of the paint surface required that all of the many layers of paint be removed, with the original layer dating back to 1905 when the building was first built. Some of these layers were incompatible with others, resulting in paint failure.

Arched and coffered ceiling
Removing the old paint revealed the plaster detail was the extent of the decoration on the lobby ceiling
(click to enlarge)

Plaster details Plaster detail
Note the traces of golden calcimine paint (click to enlarge)

The history of the ceiling's past finishes came to light as we removed the old paint and began to piece together what the earlier versions of the lobby ceiling might have looked like. The conclusions were rather surprising as it was never gilded or treated in a decorative way, other than the plaster detail itself. There was golden calcimine paint (also known as kalsomine or distemper paint) on the plaster that appeared to be original.

Choosing gilding
Gilding samples. A silver was eventually chosen (click to enlarge)

From learning the history of the lobby's past, we decided upon the mural accented with gilding, with Oliver and Nora H. Johnson collaborating on the branch design.


Mural detail Mural
The branch mural is set off by silver gilding (click to enlarge)

As a team we were able to come up with an effective process for removing over a hundred year's worth of paint so that we could restore the plaster before repainting it. Our restoration team removed all the paint and performed plaster repairs and restoration, including casting and repairing some of the existing elements. Konrad Praczukowski of Nuance Studios painted the space and prepped it for the gilders, while Nora painted and installed the murals.

Lobby Ceiling and lighting
Modern yet classic lighting (click to enlarge)

Oliver Cope's crew designed the lighting and guided the process along with Euisik Hong. Working as a team, we were able to achieve the final affect of a grand turn-of-the-century lobby with a modern spin.

All "after" images courtesy Nelson Hancock



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5th Avenue Lobby
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5th Avenue Loft


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