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Clinton moving into Harlem office that is contemporary, furnished with ’off-the-shelf’ pieces
Associated Press photo Navid Maqami, the designer of former President Bill Clinton's office space, poses in front of the building in New York's Harlem neighborhood Thursday, July 27, 2001. The 14th-floor penthouse, behind the three recessed windows at the top right of the building, looks out onto Central Park, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and the Empire State Building.

NEW YORK (AP) – Clean, bright and contemporary, the Harlem office Bill Clinton moves into on Monday is furnished with off-the-shelf pieces from design stores.

There is no oval in this office, no classical furniture and no mahogany, said Navid Maqami, director of the New York office of Greenberg Farrow Architecture.

“We were delighted to find out that he liked a cleaner, more contemporary look,” said Maqami, whose office came up with an understated design in beiges and earth tones with accents of cherry veneer.

Clinton’s staff moved into the office last week. Thousands of Harlem residents and civic leaders were expected to welcome him to the neighborhood with a block party Monday.

The 8,300-square-foot office, leased at a taxpayer cost of about $261,450 per year, is on the top floor of a newly renovated 14-story building. The lease comes to about $354,000 when electricity is added and tenant improvements are made.

The former president chose the space after a barrage of criticism over his first choice – a penthouse suite in midtown Manhattan. That office would have cost taxpayers about $800,000 per year.

The Harlem office capitalizes on its stunning views of Central Park, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and even the Empire State Building – some 4 1/2 miles away.

“President Clinton wanted it to be very open and light, a place where he could bring all of his books – and he’s got over 7,000 volumes in his library,” said Julia Payne, his spokeswoman.

Clinton is also bringing along his collection of music recordings. “Music is also very important to him and his music collection is as large as his library,” Payne said. “He loves music of all kinds: jazz, classical, everything.”

It was important to Clinton that the office be casual enough that visitors feel comfortable. “When people meet the president they are overwhelmed; the intention is to put people at ease,” Maqami said.

Clinton’s 22-by-42-foot private office includes a pantry and a private bathroom with a shower.

Although Clinton never stipulated that furniture be American-made, Maqami said he believes all of it is. The pieces include boxy, fabric-covered chairs and a sofa from the Prague furniture line.

Clinton personally chose some of the pieces at a showroom in Manhattan. The Prague line is designed by Christopher Ciccone – who is Madonna’s brother – although that apparently did not figure into the ex-president’s choice.

“Once he said he liked the chairs I didn’t want to make it complicated by explaining who designed it,” Maqami said.

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Most of the furniture came from stock rather than being custom-made.

Time and money were the reasons, said Maqami, whose budget was dictated by the federal General Services Administration. Neither the GSA nor Maqami would confirm the cost, but The New York Times reported that the office improvements overall were budgeted at $6.21 a square foot.

“The schedule was very tight. We basically had a month to do the design, and then the contractors just started working on the space six weeks ago,” Maqami said.

Interior designer Mario Buatta, who is not involved in the project, gave Clinton high marks for his taste.

“He’s cool and I’m sure he wants something young,” Buatta said.

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