Open for Business
Holly Hunt goes for street presence with her second New York showroom, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle
Kimberly Goad -- Interior Design, 5/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
When design doyenne Holly Hunt found herself outgrowing her suite in New York's D&D Building, she set out to open a second, larger showroom a few blocks away, in the A&D Building. More than merely geographically desirable, the location afforded Hunt that all-important street-level presence as well as spacious floors above. But the premises themselves, previously Einstein Moomjy, were dark and disorganized. "If you looked at the original plans, nothing matched up. The cellar, ground floor, mezzanine, and second floor didn't stack on top of one another like in a normal office building. And the ceilings were low and inconsistent," says Stanley Wong, project architect for Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, the New York firm enlisted to take on the two-year project.
The painstaking renovation (emphasis on "pain") involved gutting the space, then reconfiguring it to establish three levels: a 3,600-square-foot first-floor showroom, a 2,200-square-foot mezzanine featuring an espresso bar and back-of-house offices, and a 6,300-square-foot second floor, for merchandise display as well. To distinguish Hunt's storefront from the rest of the building, she and Wong replaced the brown brick facade with Spanish limestone. Two glass curtain walls, which extend to the top of the second floor, vertically unify the space; the glass furthermore satisfies Hunt's desire to bathe the showroom in natural light.
An L-shape skylight over the mezzanine's espresso bar achieves the same goal, and the light also draws the eye toward the back of the showroom—the first of a set of visual clues that there's more to see. The second clue? A floating stairway of raw concrete with glass railings. "In a space like this, you have just a few moments to make an impact. One of those moments is always going to be the stairs," notes Beyer Blinder Belle's Carolyn Straub, project designer. "It's almost a permanent furniture piece."
Hunt's greatest challenge in designing the interior was to select elements that simultaneously reflect her own taste and the sensibility of the furniture. Her choice of poured-concrete floors, gray walls, and recessed track lighting minimizes visual interference. On the first floor, devoted entirely to Christian Liaigre, she's been showing, among other designs, his cabinets, tables, and pedestals. "No one else working in furniture has as good an eye for scale, proportion, and texture," she says. Upstairs, furniture by Wendell Castle, Lyle & Umbach, Richard Mulligan, Therien Studio, Sutherland, and John Hutton for Holly Hunt shares space with Great Plains fabrics and leathers—a more transitional mix than the offerings at Hunt's D&D Building suite. "The experience of a showroom itself," she says, "should be the equivalent of what you buy there."