If New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wants affordable housing that isn’t cookie-cutter, perhaps he should consult Karim Rashid. At 53, Rashid is best known for designing household products. But now he wants to design households for those products, and he is getting his wish: among his current projects are four Manhattan condo buildings, the first of which is already under construction. Though they are recognizably Rashid’s—with ample curves and Kool-Aid colors—they are also economical, with construction costs of about $250 per square foot. (The typical cost of new residential construction in Manhattan is nearly twice that much.)
As an industrial designer, Rashid has some 3,000 items in production, according to Michael Regan, the chief operating officer of Karim Rashid Inc. (The firm operates out of a sprawling loft-like space—part of a complex designed by Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects—in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan.) But Rashid says he has longed to design buildings, and the opportunity came his way after he gave a talk in Tel Aviv. The Egyptian-born designer found himself chatting with an Israeli real estate developer about the shortage of entry-level condos in New York. Through his company, Hap Investments, the developer entrusted Rashid with four Manhattan parcels— three uptown and one in Chelsea—and soon Rashid was working to give them buildings as distinctive as his sofas, wastebaskets, and baby bottles.