Award-winning apartment steers away from fads

The apartment is on the 36th floor of a modern Manhattan high-rise.

The challenge was to convert its ugly, long, narrow living room, bereft of any architectural detail, into an elegantly warm and livable space suitable for living, entertaining, and occasional office work at home.

The manner in which this feat was accomplished has just earned a first-prize award for Hal Adams, ASID, a New York interior designer who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology four years ago. His entry placed first in residential design in the 24th annual ''Interiors of the Year'' competition sponsored by the S.M. Hexter Company of Cleveland. This award program recognizes outstanding achievements by American interior designers.

''We liked the room especially because it was not faddy in any way. It was neither high-tech, minimal, international, nor exotic, but simply a well-thought-out and workable solution to a difficult design problem,'' reported a member of the jury, Muriel R. Chess, editor of The Designer Magazine, after the judging. ''Most of us felt we could enjoy spending a pleasant evening in Mr. Adams's room, and that he had met his client's requirement for a quietly modern and sophisticated setting. We also particularly liked his use of lighting and lamps. He pinpointed with light some important pieces, and used some up-lights. But most important, he placed reading lamps beside chairs so people could sit down and read comfortably, or do needlepoint. We liked the idea that he did not depend on ceiling track lighting to replace task lighting.

Other judges included Dede Draper and R.Michael Brown, both New York fellows of the American Society of Interior Designers; Gloria Jean Blake, editor of Florida Designers Quarterly; and David F. Cooke of Columbus, Ohio, national president of the Institute of Business Designers.

Adams, who heads his own design firm, says of his approach: ''I was tired of contemporary design which projected a disco type of interior with all hard lines and plastic surfaces. I knew the people who were going to live in this apartment wanted comfort, refinement, and style, but not the kind of style that jumps out at you.''

He added architectural moldings and woodwork to the unembellished room. Then he broke up the 26-foot expanse of window by dividing it with a 36-inch-wide wall panel. This device broke the space into two areas of viewing and seating.

The photograph shows the end of the room which features deep, sleek upholstered seating pieces facing each other across a low Japanese-style table. ''This straight-line arrangement of seating may seem rigid,'' the designer explains, ''but it actually suits the personal needs of the clients and fits the architectural detailing of the room. It also works well for entertaining a few guests.''

The opposite end of the room, not shown, has a table desk for working at home , three small French chairs that can be pulled up to the larger conversational grouping, and built-in cabinets and storage.

Adams chose bronze mirror for one end wall of the room to give more life and color. He put clear mirror on all the window reveals to give the room more depth and to cast reflections of the surrounding skyline and the East River. A custom-made open square of brass is attached to the far end wall shown here, to frame the suspended bronze shelf and the antique Chinese Tang horse displayed on it.

The sofa at the left is camel-colored beige. The facing chairs are white. The walls of the room are a pale mauve lacquer. Carpet is white wool Berber.

The jury looked at entries from designers working all over the country. But they agreed that this sleek, chic home deserved the prize.

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