Design bestows an unmistakable power—the kind that intuitively improves the everyday experience of those surrounded by it. Rendell Fernandez understands this acutely; as a design director for bicoastal firm Pembrooke & Ives, he leads projects that tap into clients’ emotions, resulting in bespoke spaces that practically rise from their subconscious. “We believe design changes lives,” says Fernandez. “Our role is to expand our clients’ comfort zones to open new ways of living.”
Case in point: potential clients who had purchased a new-build penthouse on the Hudson River in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood. The clients, a couple with three adult children, were pitching designers with two primary requests: comfortable design that prioritized the views, and a state-of-the-art sound system. “He’s an audiophile and wanted to enjoy music at concert volume without bothering the neighbors,” says Fernandez. “We had to use both technology and design to take this space beyond their expectations.”
Under the stewardship of Pembrooke and Ives’ president Andrew Sheinman, and together with general contractor Noah Bogen and fellow designer Inna Medvedkina, Fernandez developed a plan that won the team the project. Working with a raw space, they devised a layout that set the amenities—the powder room, fireplace, coat closet, bar and wine refrigerator—into a single core that ran the length of the apartment. This formed an entry hall on the north side while opening the main areas—the living room, dining room, kitchen and upstairs bedrooms—to the views on the south side. “The goal was an efficient layout with an open plan,” says Fernandez, “and with this arrangement, the space becomes a backdrop for the spectacular vistas of both downtown and the New York harbor.”
Once in execution mode, two immediate challenges met the team: the construction of a staircase and the head-to-toe integration of acoustics. Proper stair placement required moving and resizing two major structural beams. Plus, the floor couldn’t support its full weight, so it had to be suspended from the landing above. To prevent sound from traveling, ceilings were raised, floors were reinforced with high-density polymer, and walls were surveyed to tie down anything that might rattle at high volumes. “Vibration and sound absorption were thoroughly considered and integrated into every part of the construction,” says Bogen. In addition to the living room’s two speaker towers, five subwoofers were installed in the ceiling through ports eventually hidden in draperies and lighting coves.
The clients had requested an emphasis on beautiful materials from the start and in this case, Fernandez saw a double function. “We deployed several to both add texture and reinforce the acoustic quality,” he says. For example, leather paneling lines the stair hall, creating verticality while deadening noise and the office’s walls are flush in wool flannel, warming the space through another soundproof layer. A focus on materials throughout amplifies the home’s mastered aesthetic: cerused white-oak floors, artisan plaster walls and gleaming stone surfaces all exist together in fluid symbiosis.
In its final form, the stair itself is a site to behold. Twelve applications of high-gloss oil paint create a sculptural centerpiece, while a custom brass light fixture mimics its captivating form. At the landing above, a trio of vintage finds counteract the stair’s contemporary presence, providing a juxtaposition that Fernandez strikes often. “Adding vintage to the mix ensures a universally timeless feel,” he says, pointing to pieces like the dining room’s azure Max Ingrand chandelier. There and throughout, Fernandez pulled blue and gray palette notes directly from the Hudson River, creating a calming effect that reiterates the view.
Notably, by Manhattan standards the penthouse is sizable, but not giant. “The project was an exercise in maximizing space,” insists Bogen. The first floor’s full-height doors create volume by carrying the eye up, an island separates the dining and kitchen areas while hiding a television and warming drawers, and a raised counter in the kitchen provides another spot to eat. Spatial considerations extend to the outdoor terrace—a verdant aerie designed by landscape architect Britt Zuckerman—where Fernandez arranged three separate ‘rooms’—a lounge section, dining area and sunbathing space. The team even managed to sneak in a hot tub and outdoor shower.
It goes without saying that impeccable consideration applied to every detail. One encapsulating example: the powder room, which was fabricated as an architectural cabinet. This pivot meant the team could follow tolerances found in millwork, setting the wall at 3-inch thick versus the standard 6.5-inch, thus saving critical room. “This home is one of the best-crafted spaces we’ve built,” says Fernandez, adding, “When you assemble a group of experts as we had here, the results will push the limits—and be exceptional.”