Smoke: Combustion Chamber

  • One of the residences at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan features what the designer calls a “Den of Don’ts.”
<< Back to Robb Report, July 2004
  • Terrence Fagan

One of the showcase apartments in New York’s new Time Warner Center includes a room dedicated to indulgence. Nestled among the clubby chairs are cabinets devoted to wine, liquor, and cigars. Iris prints of abstracted smoke rings by Donald Sultan adorn the walls, echoed by a smoke ring–themed carpet made by Beauvais. “We called it the Den of Don’ts,” says Elissa Cullman, president of Cullman & Kravis, the Manhattan interior design firm that created the room and designed the carpet. She adds with a laugh, “It celebrated the seven deadly sins.”

In addition to its work in the Time Warner Center, Cullman’s firm designed Club Macanudo, one of Manhattan’s quintessential cigar lounges. It is a place of warm woods and cool marble, deep leather chairs and sleek glass tables. The lighting is subdued, and the atmosphere is masculine but welcoming. 

As cigar lovers’ public smoking options become more limited by antismoking laws, the idea of adding a scaled-down version of a Club Macanudo to the home gains merit. Cullman says the most important thing is to choose really comfortable chairs and sofas when designing a public or private smoking room. After all, in a room dedicated to relaxation, comfort is essential. Avoid having any fabrics on the walls, she advises, because they will absorb stale smoke odors, and although decor should be determined by personal taste, vintage photos of smokers, framed cigar band montages, or other cigar memorabilia help to establish the appropriate ambience. Cullman recommends layering the lighting with table and floor lamps. “Never a down light,” she says. “The more twinkly the glow in the room, the better.”


As with a home theater, a smoking room is only as good as the equipment that has been installed—the ducts and fans that ventilate the room. If cigar smoke escapes into the rest of the house, there is little point to the room.

“The most important thing is to keep the room in negative pressure compared to the rest of your house,” says Mike Olivieri, president and general manager of Triton Mechanical, a designer and builder of industrial heating, cooling, and ventilation systems in Buffalo, N.Y. With the optimal level of negative pressure, he says, you could enjoy a cigar with the door open and not have to worry about the smoke leaving the room.

Olivieri, whose company has designed and built smoking room ventilation systems for a number of clubs in the Buffalo area, says to maintain a smoke-free house, you simply have to vent the room to the outside with the proper-capacity exhaust fan. However, this process is not always easily accomplished, because houses often need new ductwork to expel the smoke and additional ductwork to bring in fresh air. Also, to avoid heating or cooling the great outdoors, says Olivieri, you will need a plate-style energy recovery ventilator, which transfers energy from outgoing to incoming air.

The price of ventilating a smoking room will depend on how much work is involved in running ductwork to the outside of your home. Olivieri says that the design and installation of a complete ventilation system should cost less than $5,000. That price, of course, does not include the fee for someone such as Cullman to design the room and create a cigar sanctuary that will remain beyond the reach of any legislation.

Cullman & Kravis
212.249.3874

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