5. The Sunken Lounge is an Exact Replica, with One Exception
Beyer Blinder Belle did the restoration of the Sunken Lounge in 2010. It’s hard to imagine today, but TWA once had a series of check in counters on the wall behind it and actually carpeted the whole lounge over in industrial gray carpet, covering quite a lot of the tile. Southwick says, “We basically reconstructed the entire thing…It’s an exact replica, with one exception: There are no ashtrays.”
The upholstery was manufactured by a Long Island City banquette manufacturer that specializes in high-end banquettes. About 15 million penny tiles were manufactured to a custom specification, taking a year to source. Not only did the color and look have to match, it had to meet all the current building codes, many which did not exist when the TWA Flight Center was constructed more than sixty years ago. Production of the new penny tiles also hit a hiccup when the industrial zone in China the factory was located in was shut down. The company producing the tiles literally had to dismantle the entire factory and move it 150 miles in order to restart production.
Southwick tells us that the penny tiles are key to the design: “The building does not have a square corner, anywhere. The only way you could have these really complex geometries was to use materials that were either very flexible or very small, that can turn the corners. These little penny tiles were a popular material in the 1960s.” When they started working on the terminal after the filming of Catch Me If You Can, the Beyer, Blinder Belle team discovered that the film’s production team had done some superficial “repair” of missing penny tiles using “little rubber disks that they painted white…so we were going around doing our survey we kept finding…paper stick-on tiles. They were everywhere,” recalls Southwick. He tells us that if you look closely, you’ll see that there are different sizes of penny tiles. Although nearly all are half inch in diameter, “there are little 1/4 inch tiles, and 3/8 inch tiles that help turn the corner and do the curves. There are hand molded tiles at the end of the stairs. Each hand molded tile costs $5, so they are very valuable.”