Equinox Should Throw Parties More Often

by The Daily Front Row

Was that a fitness club or a club club? It was hard to tell last night when Equinox launched its new Bond Street location with “Club Zero,” which was more reminiscent of The Roxy in its prime than a gym. Each floor represented a different music genre—hip-hop, punk, and disco—and managed to get guests like Zach Quinto, Miles McMillan, Hilary Rhoda, Victor Cruz, Brad Goreski, Kelly Bensimon, Dean Winters, and Dayana Mendoza dancing in the new digs. The new location is housed in a former manufacturing building, features 18-foot ceilings, and officially opens doors on December 12. Color us impressed.

Photos: Courtesy of Equinox by Dave X Prutting/BFA

The Daily recently chatted with interior designer Kara Mann who filled us in on Equinox’s latest outpost.

Have you always worked in interior design?
It’s my second career—I studied fine arts, but decided that I probably wasn’t going to be a true artist. I ended up working as a stylist in the fashion industry. I realized that I was interested in creating the whole environment, so I went back to school to study interiors, and kicked off my career a little late in the game.

Which projects put you on the map?
I started as a residential designer in Chicago. As my career developed, I got into more commercial projects. I worked on the Chelsea Hotel, and continue to work on hotels and restaurants. I recently did a hair salon and the Goop pop-up shop in Chicago.

What’s your role at Kara Mann Design HQ?
In some ways it’s creative director, and setting the tone for the office of about 20. It’s everything from finding new clients to landing the job to coming up with the look and feel, and then managing the process. Design is 20 percent—80 percent is getting something built.

How many projects are you working on?
We never have less than 15. They’re all at various stages, so while something is being built, I’m doing construction, administration, and creative aspects for another. It’s an ebb and flow as the projects evolve, but we’re really in the trenches for a whole year.

What’s your design process like?
Whether it’s residential or commercial, my approach is the same. I love getting in clients’ heads, understanding the psyche of the brand or the person. In the beginning, it’s programming the idea, then we move on with conceptual design, referencing images and getting to the meat of who the client is. If we’re working with a significant architectural location, we dig into its history. Then it’s research and imagery, and it becomes an editing process. Editing is the backbone of great design. Then we go into execution mode, doing construction sets and managing the site. The installation of the final product is important, too—placing things, accessorizing, and those finishing touches that make the space feel just right.

What will we find on your vision boards?
I reference fashion for palettes, textures, and mood—I look at fashion magazines more than I do interiors magazines. [Laughs] I love looking back on classic architecture. I’m often looking for a piece of furniture that is the backbone to a room, and build off of that.

Whom do you admire in the design sphere?
John Pawson, for his classic architecture and his thoughtful approach to minimal interiors. Joseph Dirand is kind of heart-stopping these days. I love the classics like Elsie de Wolfe, [Carlo] Scarpa…I’m a total mixed bag. I like too many things; that’s why editing is important!

Fill us in on your latest project, Equinox’s Bond Street location in New York.
Equinox has such a strong brand—they really pushed the envelope in terms of fitness and lifestyle. We dug into their DNA to understand what they’ve done in the past and where they want to take the brand going forward. The idea was to understand this specific space and location—being on Bond Street, it’s considered edgier. We honed in on the true grit of NYC mixed with the brand identity.

What are some highlights of the space?
Everything has an authenticity about it. The building had existing brick archways, which we emphasized by tucking the vanity areas into them. The stair is kind of “the moment”—the architectural focal point.

The Equinox project marks your first foray into health and wellness. What challenges did you face?
The hardest part is that a space like this gets beat up. People are using it. We had to find materials that had the look and feel that we wanted, along with durability. We had to find that authenticity, materiality, softness…sometimes commercial products go a little too stark.

What inspired you?
The Venice Biennale. I saw an amazing installation at the Fortuny Gallery—a room that was covered in paint and black tape, an upscale idea of graffiti. It was an interesting approach to turning up the volume on that.

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