A big challenge in my line of work as a hallway and lobby interior designer in New York is the city’s ever-expanding safety code regulations. I’m proud of how my firm manages to find a balance between the aesthetic sensibilities of the spaces we create while we carefully follow every rule.

However, a new set of rules has caused my artistic sensibilities to be piqued. It is posing a significant challenge for us. It involves fire safety signs.

Now, I’m all about safety first – don’t get me wrong. One can’t live in the greatest city in the world and not be aware of the risks of living like canned sardines in apartment buildings – many of which were erected before WWll.

However, these new fire safety sign requirements are really pushing it. Here is an excerpt from the FDNY website, which will give you an idea of what designers are up against:

Letters and numbers shall be san serif, not less than one-half (½) inch in height, and shall use Arabic numerals and/or English alphabet capital letters. (B) Character proportions and spacing, including stroke width, spacing between characters and line spacing, shall be in accordance with national and industry standards for building signage. (C) Letters and numbers shall contrast with the background (whether of the door, the wall, or the sign) so as to be plainly discernible. Room number markings and signs may, but are not required to, include hyphens or other forms of punctuation. (Original Source)

The new rules also state that each interior door in a residential building displays a fire safety sign – including individual apartment doors.

To make things even more complicated, the signs must:

  • Be phosphorescent (glow in the dark, but not in a cool way)
  • Include key symbols indicating if the unit is a duplex or combined apartment
  • Be no higher than twelve inches above the floor, so firefighters can crawl on their bellies and be able to see them.

Oy vey! The signage, as presented by the FDNY, is flat out ugly!

Each of our clients makes a significant investment when they hire us to renovate their coop or condo’s hallways and lobby. We take great care when in the selection of new lighting, flooring, wall coverings, hardware, decorative accessories, artwork, and more. We create environments that are at once beautiful and functional. (A little brag: my firm has been in business for over thirty years, and most of our work comes through word-of-mouth.)

Design and aesthetics are critically important to my staff, our clients, and to me. So, today, I’m rolling up my sleeves to make my voice heard. With the help of a colleague who is also a leader in the NYC interior design industry, we are lobbying the FDNY to allow interior designers like us to customize fire safety sign designs for our clients.

Here are some design concepts we’re working on:

I believe that design can play nice with safety regulations. If you agree, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

Thank you for reading!


Sygrove Interior Design Services

Sygrove Associates Design Group is an NYC interior design company. Our company’s founder Marilyn Sygrove is the lead interior designer on all projects. And she’s as tough as you are when it comes to quality, aesthetics, and coming in on time and on budget.

It all starts with a design consultation with Marilyn. She takes the time to thoroughly understand your design needs then personally directs all interior design, planning, and installation activities. Her work has been delighting clients, co-op and condo boards, and homeowners for over 30 years.

You can reach Marilyn by email at hello@sygrove.com or call her directly at 212.757.0631.

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