February 14, 2020

An Art-Deco architectural jewel at MSM is restored in Neidorff-Karpati Hall

After a $1.2 million renovation, the downstairs lounge is now open to the public, thanks to the generosity of Noémi K. and Michael Neidorff.

The original lounge was built in 1931 along with the performance space above that would come to be known as Neidorff-Karpati Hall. Both spaces were built by Arthur Harmon of the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, also designers of the Empire State Building, which opened the same year.

After falling into disrepair following serious flooding, the lounge and restroom facilities were closed in the early 2000s.

“The space is in fact, now more Art Deco in feel than it was before,” says Amanda Rienth, a principal of the architectural firm Steinberg Hart and the interior designer on the renovation project.

The lounge reopened in February 2020, after the 6-month renovation.

She points out the new Art Deco-inspired details such as the checkerboard wall covering, the walnut sideboard and the custom-made center banquette, a vintage pedestal radio lamp, and, in the restrooms, the new high mirrors and glass mosaic tiles.

The pattern of the new carpet, says Amanda, “anchors the center of the space and gives it a focal point.” The new furniture comes from manufacturers including Roche-Bobois, Jamie Stern, Bernhardt, Ginger and Jaggar, and others.

Maintaining the spirit of the 1931 design

The goal behind the renovation by Steinberg Hart has been to keep the spirit and historic details of the original lounge intact, while modernizing it with high-quality and environmentally sustainable upgrades. The main inspiration for the architects and designers were original photos of the space.

The original lounge, built in 1931.

The more subtle checkerboard wall covering of bio-based material echoes the original design; brass detailing has been restored to its original state.

New tall mirrors and glass mosaic tiling in the two bathrooms.

Restored original wainscotting and brass trimwork.

The original "bubbler" drinking fountain was cleaned, fixed and restored to working condition.

An Art Deco pedestal from the original lounge is restored, and a rare vintage lamp from the 1930s is added.

This "radio lamp" features detailing of musicians, another rare find. (Read more about radio lamps below!)

Improving on the original design, with an eye to sustainability

“We made a point of not ripping everything away, but rather, bringing back the lounge’s original glory where we could,” explains Amanda. “And we made design improvements in some places.”

“For example, the restrooms were in fact not very Art Deco or glamorous; they were simply utilitarian,” says Amanda. “We really elevated their look and feel by installing beautiful glass mosaics and facetted high mirrors, similar to what you may find in high end music halls such as Radio City Music Hall. We’ve give the restrooms a luxurious character.”

Updated, eco-friendly infrastructure

Equally important to the renovation is the layer of modern infrastructure behind the aesthetics, and the use of eco-friendly materials.

These include energy-efficient LED lighting throughout, state-of-the-art plumbing, and faucets with low flow to conserve water. Hand dryers have been installed to save paper, and the toilets are high/low flush to also conserve water.

Several of the original walls were retained, and the wall covering throughout the lounge is made of a durable, bio-based material called Xorel. The new nylon carpet is made with recycled products.

Updated infrastructure is a key component of the renovation

The restrooms underwent an extensive overhaul

Renovating from the ground up

“We were able to reuse much of the marble from the original restroom build out,” explains Bryan Greaney, Director of Facilities and Campus Safety at MSM, who helped oversee the renovations.

“And most importantly, we were able to fix the very serious plumbing issues which caused the space to be flooded and abandoned in the first place.”

Addressing the issue of antiquated plumbing

“People come to the hall to experience world-renowned music on stage, and you’re now able to have a lounge and restroom facilities that add to that experience.”

Interior designer and principal with the architectural firm Steinberg Hart

Bringing it all together

“What I love the most, is that the renovation brings the amenities back into the hall and just really adds to the overall patron experience,” says Amanda.

“People come to the hall to experience world-renowned music on stage, to experience something unique, and you’re now able to have a lounge and restrooms facilities that add to that experience.”

by Mimi Tompkins with contributions from Bryan Greaney and Gary Meyer

 

The lounge is located one level down from the sound-and-light lock lobby outside of Neidorff-Karpati Hall. It is open before, during, and after concerts.

Photos by: Lauren Sageer, Brian Hatton, Mimi Tompkins and Bryan Greaney.

A small history of “Radio” Lamps

 

When radios became common place in the 1930s and ’40s, consumers were afraid that the low glow emitting from the radio dial would damage their eye sight. So, charming radio lamps became popular, adding a little more light to the room and often serving the dual purpose of decorating the otherwise “homely” technology. Thus by the time televisions came along in the ’50s, it was traditional to have a small decorative lamp atop your entertainment cabinet, and ‘radio lamps’ became ‘television lamps.’  This example, which likely dates from the late 1930’s, is cast from soft metal and finished with bronze-toned lacquer. It is capped with an amber ice crackle shade, and features a pair of musicians.

— Research provided by Gary Meyer, MSM Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.