I have many magazines and ten times as many images torn (and cataloged) from magazines, going back all the way to the early 90s. Often, I’ll flip open a folder or a vintage issue and, a new post is born. That was just the case when I re-opened my January 2004 issue of Architectural Digest.
Named CEO of Pepsi-Cola Middle East at the age of 32; and later Pepsi’s CEO in Canada, Kevin Roberts took his position as CEO Worldwide with Saatchi & Saatchi in 1997.
One of the world’s leading creative organizations, Saatchi & Saatchi is comprised of 6,000+ people and 130 offices in 70 countries. The company is also a part of Publicis Groupe, the world’s third largest communications group. Saatchi & Saatchi works with 6 of the top 10 and over half of the top 50 global advertisers.
CEO Roberts and his family live primarily in New Zealand, but for the week or so he spends in New York every month, he needed a New York apartment. A specialist in creativity for a company a motto of “nothing is impossible,” Roberts knew from the beginning that his Tribeca home away from home presented him with a rare opportunity: he could build absolutely anything he wanted.
“It was just for me and it was better than buying a Porsche or a football team,” Roberts says of his Manhattan residence.
Protective and cozy were the adjectives Roberts used to describe the feeling he wanted for the raw penthouse duplex he purchased in a converted factory building in Tribeca, a nine minute walk from his office. “In New York, the idea was to disconnect. Here, I live in the hurly-burly, working with 7,000 other souls worldwide in a kind of emotional tension,” Mr. Roberts explained.
He continued, “I wanted to go to a home that’s secure and warming, calming and relaxing, to an article of faith. I wanted to open the door into something uncomplicated. I wanted the feeling of being embraced.” His architect, Sam Trimble, understood that Kevin wanted a cave of his own.
Kevin sought to “avoid light switches and door handles, even doors themselves, to get a simplicity of form that would impart… tranquility,” in his downtown home.
The CEO clarified, “I wasn’t after minimalism as a look or movement but an authentic minimalism–nothing manufactured, nothing complex or contrived. I think originality and simplicity are great stimuli for creativity.” The simple surfaces would also provide a gallery environment, suitable for Robert’s collection of contemporary art.
To make a former industrial space with 13 foot high columns feel like a rectilinear cave, the architect did a tremendous amount of research.
“I learned about tectonic caves–natural caverns that look ordered and structured–and I decided to create a space that seemed hollowed out, as though carved from solid rock,” shared architect Sam Trimble.
Mr. Trimble developed the plan for the one-bedroom apartment rather quickly.
The simplicity of the interior design was, of course, anything but simple to execute.
When the day came for Roberts to view the finished apartment, he took a seat in a Kuramata mesh chair in the gallery, to absorb the space. “He just sat there, quietly, for five minutes. Maybe 10 minutes. I was at the edge of my seat, wondering what he’d say,” recalled the architect.
“No art,” was Roberts eventual response. The space itself, as designed, sufficed. Roberts would hang a word painting commissioned by New York artist Sean Landers in the gallery, with otherwise no art.
“Everything… has to be in order–I need a tidy space and heart–to let my feelings and creativity run wild,” said Roberts of his New York City home. “I’m refreshed here. It works. It makes me feel capable of doing anything.”