Escape route, down
Cindy Coleman -- Interior Design, 1/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Dealing with below-grade spaces is a perennial real-estate and design dilemma. Casting them in a more positive light as "garden level," "concourse," or "pedestrian mall" is one way to add appeal. More often than not, though, these areas are relegated to back-of-house storage and mail sorting. So DMAC Architecture president and creative director Dwayne MacEwen had to be especially innovative in turning 14,000 below-grade square feet at Chicago's posh 900 North Michigan Avenue mall into the Mario Tricoci Hair Salon & Day Spa. His design doesn't hide the fact that the salon-spa is not on—or above—street level. Instead, he made immersion and escape integral to the concept.
Mario Tricoci occupies space formerly used as storage for the Henri Bendel department store. Vertical access, via the mall's boldly colored marble lobby, is a magnificent staircase that serves as signage and works as a procession. The stainless-steel inset banding of the Brazilian cherry treads, risers, and catwalks reinforces the central design concept, MacEwen says: "The bands create a ribbon effect representing the flow of water."
At the bottom of the stair, in the salon area, reflective materials such as mirror, chrome, and back-painted, acid-etched, and clear glass transcend spatial boundaries. Volumes, created by millwork and stylist stations, float like "icebergs," MacEwen says. A series of catwalks and mezzanines intricately threaded through the interior gives it great vitality, providing interesting vistas in all directions. Light subtly spilling from crevices and cutouts in millwork, ceiling, and partitions again reinforces the notion of immersion.
A simple acid-etched glass door marks the entry to the day spa. The noise and activity of the salon end here, replaced by quiet and a simple palette of natural textures and colors. Starting with a Zen-like garden of rocks and water, the planning sequence combines intimate and open spaces. In the center, the hammam room—a North American interpretation of a Turkish bath's anteroom—serves as a waiting area for hydrotherapy, herbal wraps, and other wet services. After treatments, customers retire to the Turkish-inspired "quiet room," whose muted fabric wall covering, softly upholstered daybeds, and tasseled bolsters transport the customer to a reflective zone. MacEwen attributes the success of the design to its elastic ability to transform and transcend aesthetic genres. "There's a much greater emotional impact," he says, "when you don't give it all away at once."
SPA EQUIPMENT (TREATMENT ROOMS): TAKARA BELMONT. STONEWORK: OLD WORLD STONE/STONE FABRICATION SHOP. GLASSWORK: H3 ARCHITECTURAL GLASS SYSTEMS. METALWORK: WESTERN FABRICATING COMPANY.