Howard Halle -- Interior Design, 3/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
If contemporary-art collectors' interest in vintage tables and chaise longues is growing every day, where better for a furniture dealer to capitalize on the trend than New York's gallery district? So, after 12 years of working from home, Suzanne Demisch and her business partner, Stephane Danant, opened one of the first decorative-arts galleries in Chelsea—displaying their inventory of European pieces from the 1950's through the 1970's on the second floor of an industrial building.
To turn 1,500 square feet of raw space into Demisch Danant—a setting worthy of Pierre Paulin, François-Xavier Lalanne, Maria Pergay, et al.—the two partners brought in Cooper Hanlin principal Jennifer Hanlin. The goal was to emphasize that functional objects are as unique and collectible as the artwork that the gallery's clients buy elsewhere in the neighborhood. "Furnishings were to appear as sculpture," Demisch says, "but it still had to be more residential than the surrounding galleries."
Delivered on a relatively modest budget, the result is clean yet inviting, with a warm mix of incandescent light fixtures; walls and a dropped ceiling painted in matte creamy white; and a steel beam and columns in a similar white, but a glossy finish. The beam, the columns, and a single exposed sprinkler pipe, all running parallel, discreetly divide the space visually.
What holds everything together is the floor, its vanilla-colored thin-set concrete scored with a 6-foot grid of licorice-black lines. (The dimensions derive from the trio of square windows on the gallery's front wall.) "It was an open space, and we kept it that way," Hanlin says. "But subtle definitions help Suzanne and Stephane display furniture in little collections." Hanlin likens the idea to the photos that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe collaged onto grids. Or to knots of people holding conversations in a Parisian salon.
The Paris apartment that Eileen Gray designed for fashion designer Suzanne Talbot—creating the chubby Bibendum chair along the way—was Hanlin's inspiration for the wall of accordion doors that hides the office, kitchen, and restroom in back. "Because of that articulated wall," Demisch says, "the gallery isn't just a white box."