20 Sutton Place South was designed by the architectural firm of Boak and Raad and built in 1954; it is typical of the many apartment buildings built by developers in the 1950s in New York City. FBA was retained by the Board of Directors to renovate the lobby, which had been altered in a Colonial Revival style with a dark wood wainscot, beige wall paper, faux wood graining on the elevator doors, a heavy crown molding and a full height wood screen hiding the graceful curved that formed the end of the space.

The budget was minimal and the success of our renovation depended on designing the right intervention in two key locations: the recessed wall at the elevator doors and the curved end of the space.

Our philosophy, always, is to reinforce the character of the existing design so that the new work gains strength from it. The fine wall of glass panels and bronze muntins separating the lobby from the vestibule still remains from the original design, as does the gridded cast stone pattern at the building entrance. These elements were our inspiration.

Our design removed all the colonial revival elements and the exedra screen. We introduced a grid of glass and fine bronze muntins at the elevator wall. The glazed panels are made of two sheets of glass laminated with a sheet of rice paper in between and a mirror surface at the back of the unit. The mirror reflects light through the rice paper, which makes it possible to see the fine texture of the paper. We finished the exedra wall with silver leafing to add richness and to complement the new glazed surface at the elevators. We designed a curved built-in sofa for the exedra to make it an active part of the lobby and add visual interest at the end of the space’s cross axis.

The walls are white with a tinge of grey/green; the terrazzo floor and black marble base have been restored and polished. Recessed, energy efficient, lighting was added over the elevator and exedra walls.

The loose furniture consist of a coffee table designed by Isamu Noguchi and two armchairs designed by Eero Saarinen.


Françoise Bollack Architects
Françoise Bollack, AIA, Principal In Charge
Anatoly Starr, Project Manager

General Contractor:
George Biebel

Completed restoration: Henrik Olund