The lobby of the SoHo building where Stephen DeCordova, an actor, owns a co-op is almost too small to be noticed. A tiny vestibule leads to a narrow hallway where you’ll find the stairs and elevator. Four years ago, this entryway was dark and dingy with broken-down floors. Now, a few wise decisions later, the space has an impact that is far from small. A new slate floor; walls of marble, fresco and brick; stripped steel trim and a glass wall dividing the vestibule from the hall give it a contemporary feeling. It also has something of the flavor of an old train station. On entering, you immediately feel like you’re on your way to somewhere–somewhere interesting, somewhere fun. Happily for the co-op, the stone, metal and unpainted polished plaster make the space practically maintenance-free. As designer William Fares says, "It won’t wear out, it will age."
A lobby plays an important role in both the tenants’ quality of life and visitors’ impressions. Every co-op has its own reasons for making a change. DeCordova says that his co-op began seeking ideas when he suggested they create an entryway that reflected the spaces most of them had. A building might re-do its lobby because there’s been significant member turnover and tastes have changed. And sometimes people merely want to make things more presentable. Whether you’re going for a complete renovation, or simply want to replace a worn-out carpet, you need to know what floor and wall coverings are durable, what furniture will last and what colors bring out the best in an area.
"The most durable and maintenance-free floor covering," says Gary Baydal, owner of Gary Baydal Tile Industries on Staten Island, "is ceramic; all it requires is damp-mopping." He does point out that nothing is indestructible. "Your best insurance policy is to keep two to three boxes of your tiles on hand to replace chipped ones." Natural stone has also become a very popular choice as has slate and limestone. Of those, granite is the most durable. Baydal points out that all natural stone requires sealer, which will help protect the floor from stains. Depending on the traffic, it may need to be resealed every six months to a year. Baydal doesn’t recommend using polished marble because it’s very high maintenance: the shine is created by rubbing, and it wears off quickly. However, you could obtain a 100-year-old look by using tumbled marble. This is the same marble used for polished marble, but it is put in a vat with sand and turned to obtain a dull finish. "On this kind of floor, you might not even mind stains if they contribute to the antique look," Baydal says.
To save money, you could put in vinyl tile, but it is high maintenance. You have to hire someone to come in approximately every week to wax it.