Window, Window, On the Wall

A mid-rise condo in the Millenium Tower, with its lower operable windows.

A mid-rise condo in San Francisco's Millenium Tower, with its lower operable windows.

For the last couple of weeks, every night’s been a party as the Millenium Tower plays host to Icons of Design, one of those opportunistic design events where hopefully everyone wins: High-end real estate is shown off, designers display their creative chops, charities get money, and the public gets a chance to wander through fantasy, “cost-is-no-object” spaces.

For me, a trip up to the 52nd floor–the building has 60 floors, but my ears were already popping on the way down–was a chance to gawk at the latest in curtain walls. According to John Ishihara of Handel Architects, the unitized curtain wall system was built in China and snapped together on site.  The bottom windows are operable, with top hinges so that rain doesn’t come in, and they open up 4 inches. There is a one-inch gap between the two halves of the mullions, which enables a “trickle vent”–if you don’t want to open the window, you can still let in fresh air but not the noise of the traffic below, muffled by the aluminum framing and internal baffles. Being able to open a window made this space, 52 floors up in the air, feel a little homier than your typical sleek condo.

And the interior design? Most of the designers went for tasteful opulence, with luxurious fabrics and exotic woods standing in for last century’s patterning and gilding. Local stars Martha Angus and Charles De Lisle evoked a more contemporary sense of fun. And then there was the dining room by Martin Richards.

A setting for San Francisco royalty, by Martin Richards

Dining with a contemporary duke and duchess, by Martin Richards

With two enormous photographs (of a yoga teacher and her rocker husband, a takeoff on ducal Renaissance portraits), framed by lamps held by hand sculptures,  the room was a like a modern version of Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bête.  Wouldn’t it be fun to hold a dinner party in a space like that? The Icons of Design showcase is open to the public on weekends through November 22.

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