Bell Labs is now Bell Works. Originally designed by Eero Saarinen in 1957 and home to over 6,000 engineers for […]
Bell Labs is now Bell Works. Originally designed by Eero Saarinen in 1957 and home to over 6,000 engineers for 40 years, the Bell Labs building in Holmdel, New Jersey closed in 2007 and remained empty for 8 years. In 2013, it was purchased by Somerset Development. Somerset has begun a huge renovation, and redevelopment is in progress for a health and wellness center, a nursing facility and assisted living center, a hotel, restaurants and shopping, spa, office spaces and a 20,000-square-foot public library. The cafe area, dubbed The Big Bang Cafe, is open to the public from 7:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Booskerdoo Coffee, is also open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon. The community is encouraged to come and visit, have a bite and some coffee! Some of the office space is currently occupied by members of Vi, a co-working space. Members of the coworking field include Vydia, Trendsetter Media and Marketing, Silver Style Pictures, Marketing Rival, Nicholl Field Design, Peter Dant Photography, BLX.io, and more. Tenants of Bell Works include Spirent Communications, Sutton International, Symbolic IO, MetTel, Springboard Communications, etherFAX, Nvidia and McCann Systems, with iCIMS moving into the building in 2017. Much of the interior is being redesigned by Paola Zamudio of NPZ Style and Decor. Redesigning a 2,000,000 square foot building is a massive undertaking for any designer, but more impressive and daunting for a 31-year old. I met Paola recently and was amazed by her knowledge, creativity, and work ethic. I knew it was essential to interview this young woman at the helm of redesigning this historical landmark.
ID: Tell us about yourself, your history and how you came to Bell Works or how Bell Works came to you?
PZ: I’m originally from Colombia and moved to Miami with my family when I was 13 years old. I went to school in Miami, Barry University and graduated with a Communications degree. I moved to New York City seven years ago to pursue a career in fashion styling and design. I worked as a stylist for a couple of years, styling photoshoots, catalogs and fashion week shows. I also interned at Elle and Lucky magazines and worked at a Williamson PR in Soho. I attended The New School for Interior Design and moved to Italy for one year to complete my Master’s in Trend Forecasting. Moving to Italy made me realize my love for architecture and art and decided that my forte is to create beautiful spaces that bring experiences to those who are in them. Bell Works came to my life by a referral from a colleague.
ID: When they first asked you to design the cafe, did the size of the atrium scare you?
PZ: I felt a bit overwhelmed by the size of the whole building! But, I also felt very inspired by this gorgeous iconic building; the possibilities are endless. When I started over a year ago, it was literally a blank canvas, a designer’s dream. The cafe happened naturally and the goal was to create a beautiful place where people could gather and felt like “at home”, warm, cozy, welcoming. Once we started putting finishes together, I started to feel the vibe was changing. The natural elements: wood, plants, flowers brought a new perspective to the space.
ID: Tell us about your first paying job in high school.
My first paying job was working as a hostess at this beautiful Italian restaurant called Rosalia! I loved it because I got to meet lots of different people and eat pasta every day!
ID: Did you have one specific mentor that was the most helpful in your career trajectory?
I have a few towards my life, but recently Ralph Zucker from (Somerset Development) has been a great mentor, not only by giving me the opportunity to be part of the design and reinvention of Bell Works project but also by letting me be creative and bring my unique perspective . He is always pushing me to bring the best to the table and to always have fresh ideas…., and that I think is what makes a great mentor. He’s also a great business mentor who has guided me to become more business savvy, a skill that sometimes it’s hard to develop when you are in a creative field.
ID: Tell us about a career highlight. and if you would like, a career failure from which you learned something very important.
Highlight: the Bell Works Project. Career failure: After finishing my master’s degree, my four classmates and I attempted to open a global trend forecasting firm, the problem was that we were located in different time zones, lifestyles, etc. It didn’t work out so well. The lesson I learned is that sometimes you have to be more realistic in business and that communication is key in every business.
ID: What is the best piece of business advice you ever received?
Be you, and in business, don’t take things personally.
ID: Favorite work of yours?
The Pre-built offices at Bell Works.
ID: Given the fabulousness of how you have designed certain areas of BellWorks, we would love to know how your home or apartment is decorated?
I love Scandinavian design, eclectic, colors. I love collecting art, vintage pieces, and mixing them with modern accents.
ID: What do you like to do on your day off?
I love exploring the city, new places, walking in NY is always an adventure. I don’t like to plan things, I just love wandering around. Stopping at a library, watching a movie, going to an art exhibit, just letting it be.
ID: Tell us one thing about yourself that we would be surprised to know. i.e. a secret talent or something like that.
My friends and family would tell you that I’m an amazing cook. I think in my previous life, I was a chef. I love experimenting with food, going to restaurants trying new flavors and then buying the ingredients and make it at home! I just love it!
Thank you for your time, Paola! What you’re doing is truly remarkable and I so admire you. I’m sure my readers will too.