The 1925 art deco building was designed by Warren & Westmore, architects of Grand Central Station. In 2000, when high-end furniture dealer domus design collection (ddc) took over three stories at the building's base, it hired the renowned Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects (New York) to renovate the space.
And earlier this year, ddc owners Babak and Seemak Hakakian brought in equally renowned Gabellini Associates LLP (New York) to redo the showroom's 24,000-square-foot interior. The space's new look, which was unveiled during the 2003 International Contemporary Furniture Fair, showcases furnishings from such designers as Ron Arad, Michael Graves, Vico Magistretti, Karim Rashid and Carlo Scarpa.
"We made no structural changes to Philip Johnson's design, which features a central, nave-like space on the ground level," says design principal Michael Gabellini. "But we did add some visual scenography to the showrooms, through the use of such elements as light, color, scrims and platforms."
In keeping with that goal, the window vitrines on the store's ground floor feature themed furniture groupings set against vibrant colored walls highlighted by glowing LED illumination. "The store has grand windows, which were conceived as individual mise en scenes to animate the eyes of passersby," notes Gabellini. "In addition, customers inside the store walk through the windows to view the merchandise, becoming actors on stage in an ever-changing narrative."
This up-close approach to interacting with the displays is also used on the showroom floor's first, mezzanine and lower levels, where Gabellini laid out furniture vignettes in a series of "islands."
"The furniture is composed on elevated platforms with scrims, conceived as different hotel suites to display lifestyle environments," he explains. "The suites are arranged so that people are encouraged to meander diagonally through the showroom."
To create visual "pull" in other parts of the showroom, Gabellini branded the space with selected swatches of ddc's signature orange. For contrast, the undulating walls that encase the ground floor showroom are painted in a neutral gray and gray-blue. "All walls facing the front are one color, while walls facing the rear are in another, which creates a play of color in the reflection and refraction of warm and cool tones," Gabellini explains.
Underlying all of Gabellini's efforts was a desire to infuse the ddc space with an alluring presence. "Most furniture showrooms are depressing places, conceived as car lots for furniture with everything spread out all over an endless floor," says Gabellini. "For ddc, we thought about it differently."
Client: domus design collection, New York - Babak and Seemak Hakakian, owners
Design: Gabellini Associates LLP, New York - Michael Gabellini, Kimberly Sheppard, design principals-in-charge; Nehad Mamon, project architect; Ahm Chandawanich, Jongku Yee, design team
Outside Design Consultant: Ross MUIRreality, New York (lighting)
Suppliers: Ultimate Sound, Long Island City, N.Y. (audio/video); Rose Brand, New York (fabrics); Apple Construction, New York (screens); Stachecki Design, New York (platforms); Stone Hard, New York (flooring); ddc studio, New York (furniture); Banjo Creative, New York (graphics); Kim Lighting, City of Industry, Calif., Destiny Lighting, San José, Calif. (lighting); Lippincott Mercer, New York (signage); Benjamin Moore, Montvale, N.J. (paint)