You Heard It Here
Music turns up the volume on vision
Gretchen Kelly -- Interior Design, 10/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
At this year's Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York, Charlotte Moss handed out CDs in her Pauline de Rothschild–inspired "boudoir." To accompany the room's mélange of black-and-white photography, neoclassical furniture, and antique Chinese porcelain, plus a little hardware-store rope, Moss had asked DJ Anita Sarko to make a mix just as eclectic. Jazz standards flowed smoothly through atmospheric global grooves that would have been familiar to denizens of the Mudd Club, where Sarko used to spin in the '80's, and appreciators of Betsey Johnson runway shows, set to Sarko sound tracks. As Diana Krall's "Peel Me a Grape" played in the boudoir, it was possible to imagine the fusion: Rothschild dishing the latest Jennifer Aniston dirt over chai with the Duchess of Windsor.
In this age of personalization and customization, Moss notes, "Creating a playlist is so easy that there's no excuse not to." The current trend of bundling music with design can be traced back to Paris a decade ago, with the debuts of the Hôtel Costes and the original Buddha-Bar. Both venues were havens for sophisticates who craved a touch of exotic spice—and both relied heavily on DJs to create it. Ambient sounds and electronica provided an aural wallpaper that quickly became as definitive as the interiors themselves.
By now, the Costes brand's 10 compilations—and the oversexed models gracing their covers—are better known than the hotel itself. Buddha-Bar's multi-CD boxes, packaged with a signature giant Buddha smiling beatifically on the front, were first sold at a small retail booth at the famed boîte itself. Sales then expanded to chain stores and Amazon, extending the brand internationally. The eighth compilation was released this past summer to coincide with the unveiling of Buddha-Bar New York, a cavernous meatpacking district restaurant with a Pei Partnership Architects–designed skylight that echoes the Pei Cobb Freed & Partners pyramid at the Musée du Louvre.
Stephane Dupoux recalls how he played mixes by Buddha-Bar New York's resident DJ, Sam Popat, in the Dupoux Design studio's very own DJ booth while staff worked on the 13,000-square-foot interior, a fusion of exotic references. In the lounge, main dining room, and sushi bar hang crimson Murano glass chandeliers that might have come out of a Storyville bordello, but the central elements are an oversize black-lacquered Buddha and the DJ platform. The two face off from opposite sides of the dining room—one an ancient spiritual emblem and the other perhaps a modern equivalent.
"Design is about psychology more than anything else. Music is a powerful tool," says Dupoux, who likes to play music when he shows blueprints to clients—everyone gets a different sound. The tangibility of design meets music's intangibility.
At his nightclubs and restaurants for the Fontainebleau Resorts in Miami Beach and Las Vegas, the music will be Latin fusion. Asian sounds are not on the menu, however, at his Mandarin Oriental hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Management wanted hip-hop.
It seems today that every establishment sells sounds to help promote its design and vice versa. Buddha-Bar New York has listening stations where all eight CDs can be sampled for purchase. W Hotels is offering its fifth soothing music collection out of mini bars in equally comfortable guest rooms.
Never known to miss out on a trend, New York design gallery Moss is jumping into the mix. "Music has always been part of what we do. It's very present, supporting the whole attitude of the store," president Franklin Getchell says. Ready-made albums on the label Ghostly International used to be on heavy rotation there, and some customers started asking, "Where can I get this?"
So, as of October, Moss started selling a custom compilation of 14 mostly nonvocal tracks from Ghostly. True to form, they're packaged in a sleek digital memory stick. Roughly the size of a pack of gum, the black casing bears both the Moss logo and Ghostly's little white ectoplasm. "It's as edgy and cool in temperature as the store," Getchell says.
He readily admits, though, that the minimalist aural aesthetic is not one every shopper is prepared to buy into. "Some people ask us to turn down the volume," he notes. "We just ignore them."