Neither SoHo nor NoLIta, Crosby Street gets chic with 3 7=1, a boutique designed by Comma
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 9/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
A decade ago, when exorbitant rents and chains such as J.Crew and French Connection started forcing young fashion designers out of SoHo, funky neighboring NoLIta came into its own. Neighboring—but not quite next door. Crosby Street, which runs between the two shopping destinations but actually belongs to neither, has held fast to its urban character, a cool juxtaposition of grit and polish. Fashion designer Jean Yu had been following the dynamics of the less developed street for several years, keeping her eye on potential locations for her first boutique. When a run-down tenement building's ground floor became available, she snatched it up without hesitation and turned to a friend, principal David Khouri of the rising architecture and design firm Comma, to reinvent the sagging space as a boutique for her made-to-measure clothing and lingerie.
The name 3 7=1 is a play on numerology. (The boutique's street number is 37. Add the three and the seven, and you get 10; add the one and the zero, and you get one.) But Yu's work is grounded in artistry and engineering rather than mysticism. "Jean makes each piece by hand. Everything, even the seams, is flawless and architectural," says Khouri. Yu elaborates: "My credo is about creating things that are beautiful inside and out." Designer and client agreed that, in keeping with the spirit of her aesthetic, the interior should showcase the structural aspect of individual garments. This philosophy, coupled with the long, narrow dimensions of the space—60 feet deep and 8 feet wide—prompted Khouri to propose a gallerylike display in lieu of items grouped on conventional racks.
After a gut renovation, Khouri steered Yu away from a black-and-white scheme for walls and ceiling, toward an almost exclusively white palette. (The only dark object on the premises, the black lacquered-wood cash-wrap desk, artfully conceals stairs to the basement workroom where Yu stitches her seams to perfection.) On the long sidewall devoted to display, backlit acrylic panels of varying opacities and shades—from clear to mellow yellow—expose the clean construction and inner detailing of Yu's simple yet sophisticated chiffon pieces, hung from a ceiling-mounted picture rail by clear fishing wire. Opposite, an opaque white wall is completely devoid of merchandise. Sandblasted yellow-pine flooring, raw but delicate, complements the gleaming white acrylic surfaces.
At the rear of the boutique, a white-and-cream acrylic stacking lamp designed by Comma illuminates dressing rooms and a small waiting area. Behind the three-seat custom sofa of stainless steel and tufted white vinyl, a floor-to-ceiling mirror's inset strip of red mirrored acrylic provides an isolated jolt of color. Still farther back, Comma installed a glass door that pivots open to a courtyard, offering a glimpse of other tenements beyond.