“If you’re not happy kicking around ideas with your friends at seven pm, this isn’t the place for you,” is refrain heard often around the offices at ICRAVE, a Manhattan design firm known for its hospitality work. As with most creative firms, the company’s offices emphasize collaboration and cooperation with an open plan to facilitate the free flow of ideas. Recently, Ken Fox, the managing partner of Stripes Group, a private equity firm in New York, asked ICRAVE to bring some of that spirit into their new Manhattan offices.
“Most of these firms are in Midtown or Downtown,” says project manager Mitchell Streichhirsch. “They’re in high rises with a central elevator core. You see the same office over and over.” In contrast, the new Stripes Group office was slated for space in the Meatpacking District, much removed from the city’s traditional financial hubs. It was also slated to occupy three floors of a newly-constructed building.
For the space, “we took the different programs that go into the work day and broke them up into unique areas,” says Streichhirsch. In practical terms, it meant assigning each floor a particular function. The third houses the bullpen area—“a youthful and energetic” space. It follows an open plan where the younger members of the staff are within eye- and earshot of one another, so ideas can be tossed around thick and fast. The designers hung custom bikes on the walls, and the carpet tiles have a bold, dynamic pattern. Acoustical panels hang from aircraft cables and tubular lights run in the channels between.
One floor above are spaces geared toward visitors. There’s a reception desk, two conference rooms and smaller meeting areas. Though the team took many of their cues from designs geared to more creative pursuits, “there had to be some semblance of seriousness,” says Streichhirsch, but he and the team tweaked it. “We left the concrete floor exposed and polished it,” he explains. “It creates a feeling of raw space and lent some history of the neighborhood to it.” Work by Leroy Granisand and Hans Van Der Meer hangs throughout, and the furnishings mix sophisticated contemporary pieces with a few midcentury modern notes to play off the more industrial elements.
The executive contingent fills the fifth floor, which features a dramatic installation of tubular fluorescent lights, one of the first in North America to include the product. They can be seen from the street below and create an effect that signals something “is happening there,” says Streichhirsch. Reclaimed wood from old city water towers defines the space, as it does on the other floors, providing a unifying element.
“Ken was very trusting,” says Streichhirsch. “He created a different breed of private equity firm and wanted you to know when you walk into Stripes Group, it wasn't another private equity firm. “They’re forward-thinking, youthful, risk takers, and he the design expresses that.”