For clothing and furniture retailers, showrooms offer inviting spaces where visitors can be immersed in their brands. More akin to galleries than retail storefronts, these appointment-only places are intended to cultivate a rapport with seasoned buyers, not provide eye candy to walk-in customers. To achieve their unique goals, designers of the following trio of showrooms combined a muted palette, targeted lighting, and a flexible floor plan to create interiors that allow products to shine.
Citizens of Humanity, Los Angeles
Montalba Architects had specific aims for the showroom of premium denim brand Citizens of Humanity: The space needed to enhance the clothings’ neutral color palette, function as a work studio for company designers, and serve as a venue for PR events and fashion shows. “We had to create a simple backdrop that wouldn’t compete with the product,” explains principal David Montalba, “but rather let it be about the product.”
To achieve this, the Santa Monica, California– based firm stripped the heavy wood and rusted steel from the 4,000- square-foot industrial space, located on the top floor of a former piano factory. In its stead, a white-box gallery was fashioned from simple, straightforward materials.
The team opened up the European oak floor by placing three evenly spaced canvas walls along both lengths of the main showroom. The rectangular surfaces, finished with Benjamin Moore Super White matte paint, appear to float off of the original brick walls. Detachable stainless-steel rails for merchandise display punctuate each wall, creating visually quiet alcoves in which to examine the clothing. At the floor’s center, custom desks and Eames molded-plywood dining chairs form individual—and easily moved—workstations. More steel rails holding clothing separate each desk. A 40-inch linear skylight bathes the space in natural illumination. Lytespan’s 22 MC6 track lighting supplements the efforts, adding spots of brightness as well as creating, according to Montalba, a soothing, “lightly spiritual” feel.
Bernhardt Design, New York
Bernhardt Design specializes in high-end contract furnishings and textiles. To welcome visitors and allow them to visualize how the products could fit various interiors, architect Lauren Rottet employed a milky-white palette, luxurious materials, and a spectrum of discreet lighting. The goal in this “gracious living space,” as she describes it, was to achieve a background that was “almost invisible.”
Upon entering the 20,000-square-foot showroom, located in New York’s NoMad neighborhood, guests step into a serene reception area with a front desk and ceiling-height posterior wall both fashioned from Calacatta Lincoln marble. The marble appears again within the showroom’s bar area, whose backlit, 20-foot-long overhang was made with Krion solid surfacing from Porcelanosa.
Custom cut walls by Chelsea Carpenters guide visitors through the space, framing products from multiple vantage points; lit from below with mounted linear cove lights, they appear to float. Contech’s RAH/CTL130 and LT/CTL130 recessed track lighting illuminates the Bernhardt seating, table, and casegoods collections, which are arranged in vignettes. Thirdparty products including Flos table lamps, Jake Dyson task lights, and Alessi accessories are interspersed throughout. “We wanted to show how Bernhardt’s pieces work both as a collection and in concert with other items you might have in your home or office,” says Rottet.
The brand’s extensive textile collection—displayed along a 30-foot wall by the bar area—lends a pop of color. The high-gloss, reflective terrazzo floor by Amadeus Marble & Granite serves to heighten the showroom’s ethereal atmosphere.
Manufacturer of iconic furnishings by Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe, and Charles and Ray Eames, Knoll has a venerable history.
For its Houston showroom, the company wanted Architecture Research Office to highlight that legacy while imbuing the space with local flavor. The design team then worked with regional sales teams to understand the area’s culture and clientele and determined that rather than, say, having a casual feel and stocking products popular with tech companies (as Knoll’s San Francisco showroom does), the Houston site needed to be “dressy,” according to ARO principal Kim Yao, and reflect the largely corporate market there.
“We played up details that were Texas-oriented and addressed the Knoll brand,” says Yao of her team’s approach. In the reception area, a wall made with leather by Knoll sister company Spinneybeck provides a backdrop for a corporate timeline. Other walls are stamped with Knoll’s historic Circle K logo; brass versions serve as door handles and are even inlaid intermittently in the white epoxy terrazzo flooring.
Vaulted ceiling panels and acoustic baffles—designed by ARO and manufactured by FilzFelt, another Knoll subsidiary—line the 8,000-square-foot showroom. “The space allows you to draw connections between different parts of the brand,” explains Yao. The same could be said of the nearly seamless mix of staged vignettes and work areas, all featuring Knoll furnishings in various applications.
The result is a showroom that guides the visitor and highlights products but leaves open the possibilities for their uses. It is only through the careful coordination of color, materials, and spatial organization that these goals are achieved—and that designers create interiors that are bright and inviting and, in the end, capture the brand.
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