Garden of Earthly Delights
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
What do you do with a 5,500-square-foot drywall box, dead center in the atrium at the Decorative Center Houston? Ask Janice Feldman. The founder and president of Janus et Cie called a brainstorming session with Peter Jay Zweig Architects and Vanderbyl Design—the firm that had already designed this furniture company's showrooms in Los Angeles, New York, North Carolina, and Hong Kong.
First, the designers addressed that box, built to convert part of a huge, underutilized café by Charles Moore into tenant space. The current team filled in the open sides of the box with glass panels but kept it roofless. That way, the showroom could grab daylight from the clerestories and skylight 45 feet above.
No ceiling of course meant nowhere for down-lights. Nowhere obvious, at least: The solution was electrified steel cables anchoring MR-16 lamps. With a barely perceptible means of support and nothing above them, the lights twinkle like stars.
On the showroom floor, Feldman turned to a tried-and-true display vehicle. The 11-foot-tall units are divided into a grid of cubes, each aglow with a spotlight and a backlight. They serve not only as perfect little stages for individual chairs but also as dividers between vignettes.
The vignettes run down either side of a central aisle, an allée punctated by faux topiaries—a Janus et Cie standard, with lifelike plastic leaves. "You look down into the space as if it were a garden," says Vanderbyl senior designer Peter Fishel.
Feldman occasionally hosts lavish 40-person dinners here, at ganged banquet tables set up in the aisle. That's a mighty big garden party. But this is Texas.