The King Of Bling
Jessica Dheere -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Another luxury jeweler on East 57th Street isn't news. A diamond mine, however, definitely is.
And that's precisely what's supposed to be implied by the design of Jacob & Co., the flagship for the brand of diamond watches beloved by music's Sean "Diddy" Combs and soccer's David Beckham. Like the interior surfaces of a mine, the milky-white Corian that clads the store's walls is striated with horizontal grooves of differing depths and widths, explains Jacob Arabo—better known as Jacob the Jeweler.
The boutique was the brainchild of Arabo's friend Peter Arnell. As chairman and chief creative officer of the Arnell Group ad agency, he's regarded as a pioneer in employing in-house architects and industrial designers to "dimensionalize" a brand, rather than contracting out the bricks-and-mortar part of the business. Senior designer Philipp Von Dalwig oversaw the conversion of Jacob & Co.'s digging-for-diamonds concept into a Corian reality. Working with photography of a mine's strata, translated into AutoCAD, the Arnell Group used CNC routers to mill the 1/2-inch-thick Corian panels.
They first appear on the store's facade, creating a "continuous surface that logically guides you in," Von Dalwig says. Inside the 1,200-square-foot space, the Corian formation appears to float just above the floor and below the ceiling. Jutting out at various points to simulate the irregularities of a mine wall, the cladding also incorporates a band of display cases at eye level.
The cases are, naturally, glass-fronted, but Arabo refused to compromise such a striking surface with locks and handles. Instead, the Arnell Group developed a mechanism entirely befitting a client who's a lifelong James Bond fan: The glass automatically lowers and rises with the swipe of a magnetic card.
This involved mounting the glass panels behind the Corian and its plywood substrate, without any structural connection between the plywood and the glass. The problem was solved by leaving a 1/4-inch gap between adjacent glass panels. The plywood-Corian structure could then hang on studs placed in these gaps.
Seamlessly integrating the lighting also posed a challenge. The jewelry cases are illuminated by nearly 200 running feet of fiber optics from two alternating sources. One metal halide source "casts a brilliance on the gems to give them depth," Arnell says, while a yellower source brings out "more of the sparkle." For the interior as a whole, ambient light comes from cove lighting and recessed spotlights, another balance of cool and warm.
Not surprisingly, the security is equally elaborate. One-way glass and 16 video monitors help Arabo keep an eye on his millions of dollars' worth of merchandise even while attending to details in his office, which sits between the showroom and the two small rooms where he closes deals in private. But thanks to an overall lightness—even the floor is a white quartz agglomerate—entering Jacob & Co. never feels like walking into a vault.