A Ribbon Runs Through It
Annie Block -- Interior Design, 11/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Anyone who attended the Tibi spring 2009 runway show would have noticed: Crisp silhouettes and vibrant colors are the signature of the pop-arty women's-wear line founded by Amy Smilovic in 1997. Brand identity is equally apparent at the label's new Manhattan showroom and offices. "The idea of a canopy is consistent at Tibi," says Steve Blatz, who, along with Antonio Pio Saracino, designed the 6,000-square-foot workplace as well as the SoHo retail boutique last year.
At the shop, the canopy took the form of enormous angular planes hand-painted with oversize black-and-green botanicals. Here, it's an enfolding undulation that's both architectural and functional. "It wraps like fabric, like cut ribbon," notes Saracino of the wavy white drywall unit lining one side of the floor-through space. Reception, the conference room, and the pantry are contained in flowing capsulike elements that total 62 feet in length. At one point, a narrow strip peels up and away from the continuous floor and wall to form the 7-foot-long reception desk. The canopy houses fluorescent T8 tubes and spots in its ceiling; storage cabinets line some walls. "It's a grand gesture that allowed us to maintain the building's bones," Blatz explains.
Those bones date to the 1920's, when the building was a manufacturing plant. In the renovation, the team retained the original vaulted ceiling, removing acoustical tiles and installing a new HVAC duct in a flat elliptical shape that mimics the capsules. Existing carpeting was discarded, unearthing a poured concrete floor that Blatz and Saracino coated in battleship-gray epoxy resin and scored along the original relief joints. To create an open work area for Tibi's 33-person staff, partitions were removed and cast-iron structural columns exposed.
Macro components in place, the architects, along with Smilovic, got down to details, inserting the label's trademark pops of color here and there. Reception's floor is like a sorbet swirl, thanks to the area rug in a psychedelic pattern from Tibi's 2004 resort collection, a gesture borrowed from the SoHo shop. A pair of vintage chairs with bright-spearmint linen upholstery ties into the rug's palette, as does the lemon-yellow silk shade of the table lamp, also vintage. The boxy, low-profile sofa is new, though, it too is covered in a pattern from the past, this time a demure 1967 black-and-white Italian plaid.
The mood gets more sedate in the adjacent showroom, delineated by a curtainlike pair of perforated-polyethylene screens. The room's perimeter is lined with Blatz and Saracino's blackened-steel clothing racks hung with next season's flirty-fabulous fashions, which buyers survey from Norman Cherner chairs surrounding a central white-lacquered Parsons table. The adjoining open work area is just as serious, except for the amusing yellow Philippe Starck lamp that illuminates each desk.
Adjoining reception is the conference-room capsule. Frameless glass panels at each end make this the most private of the spaces since it's here that Smilovic and her designers meet to discuss collections. They do so at a stainless-steel table—brought from the office's previous location—in white-painted Hollywood Regency–style chairs. Irregularly spaced cutouts in the canopy act "like skylights," says Saracino, offering views of the 13-foot vaulted ceiling above.
The ribbon ends with the pantry. One final undulation wraps up and around custom cabinetry of black-lacquered MDF, which surrounds a cove of stainless steel. The sample room, Smilovic's office, and the production room—all with regular walls—are located beyond.
"We weren't looking to copy the store," Blatz adds, "but to continue the playfulness that's the essence of the brand, to exude the same vocabulary." That explains the familiar black-and-green botanical covering the restroom floor.