M.J. Neal Architects
Sheila Kim-Jamet -- Interior Design, 5/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
High-end jeweler Anthony Nak turned to M.J. Neal Architects for an Austin, Texas, flagship worthy of its precious and semiprecious stones set in platinum and gold. The architects converted a mundane 800-square-foot retail space into an elegant, minimalist showcase of luminous white surfaces and floating displays. The casework represents a balance between masculine and feminine elements: rectangular stainless-steel and glass displays complement elliptical pedestal cases near the center of the shop. M.J. Neal, principal of his namesake firm, reviews his design process.
What was the client's brief?
MJN: An elegant, quiet vessel for delicate and exquisite jewelry.
How does the floating casework support that idea?
MJN: I felt the jewelry should be cradled and presented as if someone were cupping it in their hands—an offering. Or that the jewelry was the fruit or seed of some type of beautiful pod. This allowed me to bring in warm wood, which is offset by cooler glass and stainless steel.
What was the biggest challenge?
MJN: The time line. The entire project, from conception of design to completion, was 12 weeks.
How did you beat the clock?
MJN: I was on-site twice a day seven days a week. It was imperative that I answer any questions about the construction immediately. I didn't have time for builders to tear out and redo anything.
Where did you take some risks?
MJN: I had been waiting a long time to experiment with computerized numerical control milling machines. We used them to carve the large wood bowls used for the pods.
So, what would you say is your favorite element in this space?
MJN: Definitely the pods. They're such simple-looking but complex, custom pieces—we did them without even making a prototype.