100 Percent Pure Italian
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 5/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
So long, darks. "We've sold only one black piece since we opened!" says Giampiero Di Persia, CEO of Poltrona Frau in Miami. It's easy to see why. The Italian manufacturer's colorful leather-upholstered furniture really pops in the design-district showroom, a coolly seductive space by Vignelli Associates.
Lella and Massimo Vignelli, icons in their own right, have collaborated with Poltrona Frau for 15 years, designing everything from ergonomic leather-upholstered seating to European showrooms. Because of the designer couple's consulting relationship with the company, Di Persia considered no one else for his venture, nor would he have wanted to. "It had to be a real Vignelli space, completely in their style," he says. And it is. All clean lines and uncompromising vision, the functional and striking interior is scaled to display large collections and individual pieces equally well.
The architects combined two adjacent storefronts to create the 6,000-square-foot space. A colonnaded gallery replaces the alley that once separated the buildings, and transitions in floor level and ceiling height required additional finessing. Near the entry, in the structure with a 16-foot ceiling, the Vignellis dropped two cylindrical skylights 5 feet and suspended four skinny lighting boxes at the same level to make a visual connection to the 11-foot ceiling in the structure next door. Marble-flecked concrete-polymer flooring flows throughout, stepping down one on side to demarcate a display area.
To show theater seating, the Vignellis installed a mini auditorium along the showroom's back wall. The pieces line up on three stepped platforms whose backlit acrylic risers are visually complemented by fluorescent-lit vertical niches running up the wall behind. "The theater's illuminated niches, the gallery's luminescent columns, and the floating light boxes all relate to one another to make the space contiguous," Lella Vignelli explains. "Lighting is of the utmost importance to us."
As if dealing with these concerns didn't keep Di Persia busy enough, he also plans to open a café in a neighboring building. "It'll be designer-friendly," he promises. "We'll have computer stations, European magazines, and of course cappuccino."