"This is a lifestyle purchase," says Cummings, who's currently renovating a home of his own on Esplanade Avenue. "It has a personality, the same way Apple Computers, iPods, and Aveda hair-care products do. And there are a couple of components that distinguish a fair or good product from an off-the-charts great one."
In business since 1988 and one of the first to bring stylish boutique hotels to New Orleans in the 1990s, Cummings specializes in style-conscious spaces that manage to be cutting-edge while also paying subtle homage to their origins and locations. Heading the list of components that he considers key to an exceptional loft are large, open spaces featuring architectural artifacts that are evidence of the building's past, such as patinaed brick walls, support columns, and industrial windows. The four-story Lengsfield building, which now includes 29 residences (five of them penthouses), had all of those things when Cummings purchased it in 2002, and today, for the most part, they are highlighted rather than concealed as an integral part of the package.
"It's a way of staying true to that legacy rooted in the changing uses of old industrial buildings," says Cummings.
Other essential ingredients, he says, are roomy, spa-like bathrooms, modern electronics, and contemporary yet timelessly designed, even iconic fixtures. All of the building's condominiums feature high-speed wireless Internet access, granite countertops, award-winning plumbing fixtures, sleek pendant track lighting, and designer fans. The communal areas are elevated beyond the mundane by means of one-of-a-kind touches created by local artists and by adaptive reuse of materials found in the building. The lobby's illuminated, glass-enclosed mail center was created by artist David Gregor, while its sculpture-like display of wall-anchored panels was made with sheets of metal taken out of the building during the renovation. Flanking the elevator banks on each of the four floors are glass sconces by Mitchell Gaudet of Studio Inferno. Though they vary from floor to floor, all use motifs that reference the building's original function of manufacturing boxes used for shipping.
At just under 1,700 square feet, the model loft (pictured here) is slightly smaller than the building average. But each of the elements behind the design philosophy that holds sway at ekistics is present in its design. Architect Wayne Troyer designed the lofts with a minimalist aesthetic in order to achieve not only an open flow but also to emphasize the distinction between the existing characteristics of the building and its new, contemporary viewpoint. The raw quality of its bare, brick walls, sprinkler pipes, concrete floors, and vast windows are juxtaposed with refined surface materials, artistic plumbing fixtures, and sleek, contemporary furnishings. Traditional residential treatments, such as moldings were foregone in favor of unadorned, pale gray walls that create a gallery feel. In fact, Cummings and his team encourage owners to use the entrance corridor as a place to display art.
As in most lofts, the public areas -- kitchen, dining room and living room -- occupy a single, large space and are delineated by means of built-in cabinetry and furniture placement. A sliding partition, designed by Troyer and custom made of an opaque polycarbonate trimmed with galvanized metal, provides privacy for the master bedroom and bath without interrupting the flow of the exposed masonry wall that extends into both the living room and bedroom. Only the second bedroom and bath, located off the entrance hall, are separated by walls.
The same pared-down approach is found in the master bath, which combines neutral-toned travertine with a warm, honey-colored vanity made from pine beams recycled from the original interior of the building, a white top-mounted sink, and a freestanding "spoon tub" by Agape to produce a soothing, Zen-like simplicity.
Like the architecture itself, the furnishings, purchased through the Miami-based showroom Luminaire, were kept ultra-spare, contemporary, and where possible, related to their environs. The "S chair" in the master bedroom is made of Louisiana marsh straw and the dining table from oak.
"There's a strong emphasis on time and place," says Cummings, who sells to a market of buyers that clearly appreciates both. "We're seeing folks from New York and L.A., who are asking 'Where would we like to have a second home?' And choosing here."