Interview with Peter McGinley

August 2017

Intro:

As he developed the signature look and feel of 555TEN’s interiors, designer Peter McGinley drew inspiration from his extensive world travels and from the daily pleasures of his life in New York City. Noting that the city is full of impressive examples of architecture and design from different time periods that are “hiding in plain sight,” he applauds the use of different styles—beyond the dominant look of twentieth-century modernism—in contemporary buildings because it reflects the diversity and energy of the city today. For 555TEN, McGinley channeled the work of Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa: the visual motif that subtly unites the lobby screens, apartment doors, elevators, and wall sconces is derived from one of Scarpa’s buildings in Venice, and it lends the interiors of 555TEN a bit of unexpected, old-world detail while emphasizing the cohesive vision within every aspect of the building’s interiors.

 

Where does your passion for design come from? 

As a student, I travelled a lot and was lucky to visit over a hundred countries. The architecture of the world stays with you, whether it’s a Roman ruin, a Louis Kahn building in India, or a modern beach hotel in Kenya. There’s almost always something that resonates—and the desire to recreate it never leaves.

 

Where did you draw inspiration for the 555TEN interiors?

New York! It was a blessing to travel to this city right after I graduated college. I envy people coming here for the first time. Of all the places I’ve visited, this is the one that most delivers on its promise of scale and energy and drama. Everyone has a preconceived idea of what to expect when they arrive here, and nobody is disappointed. They feel like they’re in a movie: “Wow! New York cops actually talk like that!”

 

My first boss, Howard Hirsch, once commented that he saw his job as “creating stage sets for the theatre of life,” and nowhere is that more applicable than here. We wanted to capture that energy at 555TEN—a building that would be of New York but of no one period: a building that would be timeless and elegant and would be as relevant in 20, even 50, years as it is today. So, we set out to mix the modern and the traditional—modern details used in a traditional way and vice versa. We looked at quintessentially New York spaces from different periods, and we looked at spaces, and even movies, where we felt the traditional and the modern overlapped.

 

Tell us about some part or detail of your work at 555TEN that you’re most proud of or that stands out to you.

Easy—for me that detail is the motif in the lobby screens that echoes throughout the building: from the leather details of the desk to the elevator doors and wall sconces at each apartment door. It comes from a building in Venice by Carlo Scarpa, the Italian master architect who devoted his life to work in that city. It’s such a beautifully simple, elegant, modern motif, and I was proud of how we reinterpreted it in various idioms.

 

In your eyes, what sets 555TEN apart from other developments in the area?

I would have to say that, again, it is the almost theatrical, timeless quality of the spaces—being of the city but belonging to no era—that sets this building apart.

 

What are some current design trends in the hospitality and development worlds?

What has struck me most, and that I’ve found very gratifying, is that designers have started looking at periods other than the modern movement of the twentieth century for inspiration. In New York and cities like it, there is such a wealth of design hiding in plain sight that displays a sense of craft and artistry. There’s also a wonderful sensitivity to materials and how they age over time. You can see an increasing awareness of that—and use of it—in some very exciting new work.

 

How do you Rise and Shine?

I have two 12-year-old boys, and one is a morning person: up, alert, and reading at 6 a.m. Hearing him moving around usually gets me up, and I’ll have coffee and catch up on the news while he asks about the occasional word or phrase. Mostly, though, we read in silence until his brother and my wife get up. We live in Tribeca, and I walk to work but accompany them to the subway, which they are proud to take to school on their own. Then I walk on alone—a ten-minute walk along Broadway to my office, which I consider a luxury. If walking through New York’s rush hour doesn’t make you rise and shine, nothing will.