Workspaces that go way beyond the typical corner office.
Photography by Philip Jensen-Carter
While the merely successful toil under fluorescent-lit expanses of particleboard and nubby, polyester twill carpet, Westchester’s business elite luxuriate in spaces you never dreamed existed outside of high-end homes. Some of their offices are creative and colorful; others are classic and elegant; all of them will incite serious envy.
So if you think office luxury begins and ends with a pricey ergonomic chair, hold onto your armrests. We’ve found six offices that make “going to work” every bit as tempting as staying home.
A Designer’s Masculine Den
Who Works Here—Lauded as one of America’s top menswear designers, Joseph Abboud, president of Herringbone Creative Services, recently published a book, Threads, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the world of fashion. Often referred to as the “Male Martha Stewart,” Abboud is currently developing a television series about men and their style.
The Space—Abboud moved into this white clapboard colonial in Bedford more than a year ago and has been busy fixing up the two-story building to fit in perfectly with the historic village’s charming environs. “It’s important to have a creative space with a lot of positive energy.”
The Décor—Abboud’s 1,400-square-foot second-floor office (there’s a lodge-style meeting room on the first floor) is eclectic. He believes that, “individual style is about finding things you love that work together. That way it’s unique and more personal to you.” Harmony is created here by the guiding force of “all-natural color”—burnt orange Venetian plaster walls, dark tavern oak floors, a designer’s “show table” with a walnut-colored marble top that Abboud uses as a desk, and a seating area featuring club chairs with the designer’s signature Russell plaid fabric and antelope brown glove leather. Stone statues representing the four seasons rest in each of the window bays, adding “strength and gravitas to the place,” says Abboud.
Favorite Pieces—Abboud loves his office’s gas fireplace, in front of which he says he “can fall asleep if working late in the winter.” The fireplace has a river-stone surround, rough-edge pine mantle with beaded corners, and a cranberry/honey-colored hearth. A cherry wood-and-leather table by the fireplace holds an array of cherished mementos, including a sterling silver ceremonial dagger from the Saudi Arabian royal family.
A Space for Work and Play
Who Works Here—Lawyer Charles V. Martabano is president of Terrapin Capital Holdings, LLC, a development and investment company with a number of residential real estate projects in Westchester and Putnam counties, Long Island, and Montana. Although his job might be serious, his office exhibts a seriously playful streak. When Martabano’s not occupied with luxury homes and townhouses, he’s on eBay tracking down pieces of Americana for his ever-growing collection.
The Space—Martabano’s office is located in the former Mount Kisco Post Office, a red brick building built in 1936, which he totally refurbished. Yet, he says, “we still get people wandering in and wanting to mail a letter.” Martabano replicated many of the interior architectural details from the building’s glory days, including his office’s light oak moldings and trim and the detail work consistent with the period. A sign over his entry door still reads “Postmaster,” and brass post-office boxes discovered in the basement are now ensconced inside his wall unit.
The Décor—Tan painted walls and dark green-and-gold carpeting set the backdrop to Martabano’s collection of expertly restored Americana. Pieces range from a replica 1940s Wurlitzer countertop jukebox to a circa 1950s Frontier Gas Station accessories cabinet filled with rare, tin toy cars. There’s also an art deco-style cigarette machine and an early 20th-century Otis Elevator operator switch. Perhaps the piece de resistance is a 1953 Lusse Auto Scooter bumper car that Martabano had reupholstered and custom-painted, then covered with a beveled-glass top to create his desk—you can even turn on the headlights.
Favorite Pieces—Martabano takes great pride in his custom-built model of the SS United States, deemed the fastest ship ever built when it was completed in 1952. He also owns the masthead light, a martini shaker, flare gun, and water pitcher from the original ocean liner. Another object of his affection is the miniature replica of a 1907 Dentzel menagerie carousel, with every detail in place down to the jester heads and mirror shields. It actually works!
A Creative Space for Lofty Ideas
Who Works Here—CEO Diane Cricchio is the driving creative force behind Irvington-based TimeLine, an award-winning, five-person firm specializing in corporate communications. Since opening shop in 1994, she’s built up an impressive roster of clients, including The Pepsi Bottling Group, Columbia University Teachers College, and AT&T.
The Space—Cricchio found this light-infused, loft-like space with 20-foot-high ceilings inside the former Lord and Burnham greenhouse and radiator factory, which was built on the Hudson River in the late 19th century and recently converted into office space. Her personal office is split into two rooms totaling 480 square feet and features the building’s original cypress beams, which have been left exposed along with the ductwork and pipes. A wall of red bricks has been painted white (with a few left uncovered) and the maple floor still has oil stains remaining from radiators produced during the factory’s heyday.
The Décor—“I wanted my office to feel like a living room so that I could relax and be creative,” Cricchio says. Her Kurzweil keyboard and state-of-the-art film and AVID video editing system share space in her office’s front room with a worn-in black leather couch and artifacts that Cricchio has collected from traveling around the world, including a hand-painted wooden dagger from Kashmir. In addition, her mustard and brick-red colored back room has a brass horn from Tibet and a multi-colored, quilted wall hanging from New Delhi.
Favorite Pieces—Cricchio is a devotee of contemporary art, including paintings made by artists at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital/Living Museum in Queens, which she displays on a rotating basis. She’s also collected a series of brightly colored portraits of women by New York City artist Colin Kerr and has her own triptych, “Earth, Wind & Fire,” mounted on the brick wall.
An Office Where Quirky Is Cool
Who Works Here—J.J. Sedelmaier, president and director of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, Inc., is widely acclaimed for his cutting-edge commercial animation, which can be seen in Volkswagen’s Speed Racer commercial and Converse’s campaign for Psychotrainer shoes. And even though you probably won’t admit you’ve watched it, at least confess that you’ve heard of Beavis and Butt-Head, the dimwitted duo whose show of the same name Sedelmaier animated for MTV’s 1993 premiere season. He was also the co-creator (with Robert Smigel) of the hilarious “Saturday TV Funhouse” cartoons seen on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
The Space—Sedelmaier’s 4,600-square-foot office is part of a two-floor penthouse atop of the 1926 Bar Building in downtown White Plains. Sedelmaier fell in love with the building as soon as he moved in 16 years ago and has been involved with saving the structure from demolition as well as putting it on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places. “I can’t stand letting something get destroyed,” he says, which may explain why his office is adorned with the original bronze tenant register from the lobby and a jeweler’s cabinet that was once owned by one of the original tenants.
The Décor—Just as Sedelmaier’s work is graphically stimulating and diverse, so is his office. A reference library with thousands of books spans the back of his room, while rows of shelves are filled with colorful collections of vintage lunch boxes, radios, clocks, and comic books. Sedelmaier has been in love with trains since his childhood in Chicago, and the office is chock-full of the objects of his affection, from an extensive display of toy trains and station signs to the only remaining light fixture from a railway station that he helped save and restore.
Favorite Pieces—Sedelmaier loves his wooden animation drawing board used in the studios of Max Fleischer, who brought such beloved characters as Betty Boop, Popeye, and Superman to life on the silver screen. Another favorite is the oak rolltop desk that he found working in an antique store in Spanish Harlem.
A Minimalist Sanctuary
Who Works Here—Have you ever driven by the gigantic white aluminum-and-glass building—the one that looks like the Starship Enterprise—just off of I-287 near the Hutch and wondered who owns it? Well, it’s Robert P. Weisz, president & CEO of RPW Group, one of Westchester and Fairfield counties’ largest commercial real estate developers, who bought the 600,000-square-foot building from Altria (formerly Philip Morris) in 2004.
The Space—Weisz’s spacious office suite is located on the sixth floor of this Rye Brook edifice, which was designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates and built between 1977 and 1983. When Weisz moved in earlier this year, he “blew out” his office’s windows, extending them from floor to ceiling to create a wall of glass with incredible views of the man-made lake that is the jewel of his 54-acre park-like complex.
The Décor—Weisz designed his own office space. “There is a lot of wood along with other natural materials,” he says. Dark brown mahogany doors, beige carpeting, and cream walls provide a calm, neutral setting, enhanced by a handsome mahogany desk and credenza and chocolate- colored leather club chairs in an adjacent sitting area. His adjoining private conference room features lush black leather chairs surrounding a round, dark brown walnut table, which Weisz says makes everyone equal and lends a “democratic feeling to the entire setting.”
Favorite Pieces—Weisz started collecting bronze sculptures several years ago, buying many of them at auctions across the country. Among the most cherished pieces in his office are a finely cast sculpture of a Native American on a horse by famed 19th-century American artist Frederic Remington, a 1989 bronze sculpture of two horses by P.J. Mene, and an English sculpture, Dogs on a Hunt, bought from the owner of a building Weisz recently purchased.
An Architect’s Theatrical Aerie
Who Works Here—Stephen Tilly’s award-winning architectural restoration work can be seen at such famous local institutions as Lyndhurst, Muscoot Farm, the Greeley House restoration in Chappaqua, and the Music Conservatory of Westchester. The Dobbs Ferry-based architect was also in charge of design for the transformation of a Manhattan printing building into the internationally known Film Forum cinemas in Greenwich Village.
The Space—Tilly operates from an open office space in the center of the second floor of a three story, 5,500-square-foot building, whose origin dates back to the mid-19th century. In 1914, the space became a medieval-style movie theatre. It was also a regional theater and housed a moving business before Tilly moved in and restored the building in 1987 with his business and life partner, Elizabeth Martin.
The Décor—Remnants of the historic theater’s dark mahogany balcony railing border one side of Tilly’s work space, providing a striking contrast to the adjacent contemporary catwalk balustrade created from light brown Douglas fir beams and stainless-steel aircraft cables. The office displays a wide range of lighting effects, from the traditional task lighting at Tilly’s work station to the theatrically rigged light pipe hanging down from a rope and operating on a pulley system. (The rod was designed by Edward Effron, who has expertly illuminated the stage for Les Mis as well as for countless dance troupes.)
Favorite Pieces—Tilly loved the theater’s proscenium arch so much that he incorporated it into the design of his interior space. “When you walk in the door, you feel like you’re coming on stage,” he says. He’s also fond of his office’s Elizabethan-style oriel window, which he restored to its full glory.
Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer residing in Briarcliff Manor. She writes about food and design for Westchester Magazine and Westchester Magazine Home & Garden.