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Chelsea Real Estate Office Doubles as Art Gallery

By Mathew Katz | September 23, 2013 8:39am
  Stribling's renovated office in Chelsea is reminiscient of the neighborhood's many art galleries.
Stribling's Historic Offices Get a Gallery-Focused Renovation
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CHELSEA — The city's oldest continually operating real estate office has entered the 21st century with a transformation from old-time broker house to stark white gallery.

Luxury broker Stribling & Associates recently completed a yearlong renovation that transformed the 3,500-square-foot space from old New York to Chelsea chic, with white walls, double-height ceilings and a gallery-style collection of art hanging on the walls.

The six pieces of art, provided by the nonprofit Aperture Gallery on West 27th Street, will change quarterly, giving artists and photographers exposure to Stribling's high-powered clientele — and generally syncing the space with its gallery neighbors.

"We really wanted to feel connected to the community," said Rebecca Mason, the Chelsea office's director of sales. "And we wanted to stay relevant. It fit the space, especially with all of the art galleries around here."

This season, the office is showing work by photographers Manuel Geernick and Penelope Umbrico. The pictures are on sale for between $800 to $5,000 — potentially to decorate new homes, Mason said.

For nearly 200 years, the space has been home to a real estate firm. The office, in a brownstone at 340 W. 23rd St., was originally opened in 1819 by James N. Wells' Sons, which merged with Stribling in 1989. 

The partnership with Aperture, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to "the advancement of photography," helps give exposure to the work photographers who might not otherwise be seen by the firm's tony clients.

"[Agency founder] Elizabeth Stribling is a longstanding supporter of Aperture, and we found that photography is just one of our favorite mediums to display here," Mason said.

The gut renovation, designed by Brockschmidt & Coleman, LLC and MGA Architecture, made room for a total of 42 brokers to use the office, a 50 percent increase. 

That's not to say everything is new: Stribling took care to keep some of the building's historic elements intact. The original vault doors are still around in what's now the building's conference room. A brass sign plate still hangs in the entryway. And bright red closet doors came from lockers in the basement.

"We've kept elements that really pay tribute to the history here," Mason said.

Even with the historical flourishes, Mason said the gallery-like space wasn't complete until the art made it to its walls.

"It makes the space comes alive," she said. "That's what art does — it really lifts the space there to new levels."