When the team at FS&CO—parent company to Schumacher, Patterson Flynn, Backdrop, and our very own FREDERIC Media—began planning a new global headquarters in downtown Manhattan’s historic Devlin building, it was agreed that the space should embody the 134-year-old company’s sophisticated joie de vivre. Blending historic references with an eye for the now, the SoHo office—designed by Dara Caponigro, FS&CO’s chief creative officer and FREDERIC editor in chief, and Stephanie Cano, Schumacher’s director of space planning—is a study in delicate harmony and dramatic counterpoint.
Read on for Caponigro’s tips for creating a statement-making work space where every carefully chosen element is engineered to inspire.
At 19,500 square feet, this was the biggest interior design project that Stephanie Cano and I had ever worked on, so we gave ourselves some limits. We chose to work with only four furniture companies: Cappellini, Cassina, Herman Miller, and Schumacher. Even though that still left us with plenty of choices, paring them back really helped. And because FS&CO is a design company with some illustrious high-profile brands, we pulled from them, too: Backdrop for eco-friendly paint, Patterson Flynn for some of their exquisite textiles and rugs, and, of course, Schumacher for fabric and wallpapers.
Choose a Neutral Floor Color
We wanted floors that didn’t skew too yellow or red so it would go with any paint color or wallpaper we decided to use initially or in the future. On the fourth floor, we kept the existing red oak flooring and treated it with Bona NordicSeal to neutralize the color, making it more versatile.
Get Creative with Wallpaper
In some rooms, we used instant mood-making scenic wallpapers that wow but also are cocooning and comforting. In other rooms, we papered the ceilings only. In one striped meeting room, we went for broke and changed the direction of the striped wallpaper repeatedly for a pop-art effect.
Keep It Timeless but Interesting
The envelope of the new space is quite classic, so we let the architectural details—tall ceilings, cast iron columns, and arched windows—speak for themselves, trying to obstruct them as little as possible. We created interest through materials: a floor-to-ceiling curtain enclosing an eating area, undulating warm white Portugese tile, beautiful white oak floors, and lots and lots of wallpaper. Wallpaper panels were particularly impactful in the meeting rooms, creating different moods in each—a chinoiserie garden in one, a Palladian cityscape in another.
Balance Variety with Cohesion
The three floors are united by a mostly neutral palette (we used the same Backdrop paint colors more or less throughout), but each has its own accents. The wallpaper in the elevator landing sets the mood for each. The main floor is the most handsome, sophisticated, and grand, with a palette of rich browns, chalky taupes, and whites, as well as almost black and verdant greens.
The third floor, where the creative teams sit, has a punchier vibe: It’s a study in mostly black and white with some primary colors carefully thrown in. The hardware changes on this floor from chrome to black; there’s a sleek, glossy kitchenette, a mailroom in cobalt blue with black accents, and a pretty sensational meeting room with a dynamic graphic pattern. The elevators to the fourth floor open to a delicate chinoiserie. It is probably the most feminine of the spaces, also incorporating a historic toile and a pretty floral chintz, but it’s by no means saccharine. Cool, arty lighting from Denmark and France, and some shapely, modern furniture keeps things from getting too sweet.
Don’t Ignore Utilitarian Spaces
We wanted to make sure that even rooms like the mailroom and printer rooms felt special, adding wallpaper, interesting paint colors, and rugs wherever it made sense. Those spaces have become some of my favorite little surprises throughout the office.
Choose a Theme for Art
Buying art was a bit overwhelming. We decided to narrow our focus to interiors, which helped make the decisions easier. We scoured eBay, Chairish, and antiques markets in France for still-lifes, vintage interior photography, and abstract paintings of chairs; we also included original pieces from Schumacher collaborators and framed some of our favorite documents from the company’s archive.
Embrace the Power of Plants
Our CEO requested that we get plants and trees, which really make the space feel more alive. We’ve also sprung for weekly flower arrangements by Emily Thompson. Walking into the office on a Monday morning is always a treat—you just never know what stroke of genius will greet you.
Pay Attention to Details
Though it seems like it might not make much of a difference, when we replaced the existing light switches and outlets with new ones—Legrand Radiant outlets in matte black and Amerelle Elan brushed nickel wallplates—the space became instantly more posh. We also spent hours deliberating on dishes, flatware, tape dispensers, and staplers. I can wholeheartedly say there isn’t an ugly thing in the entire office. It helps elevate the experience of being there.
We’re a sophisticated company but we’re not stuffy, and we wanted to make sure that spirit of playfulness came across. We installed a riff on a tiger skin rug made from abaca, a surprising lacquer orange conference table, and lots of whimsical lighting, including some sconces with playful birds. We even took the residential decorating trick of using coordinating fabric and wallpaper, covering some meeting rooms in head-to-toe pattern.