House of Blass
Bethany Lyttle -- Interior Design, 4/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Manhattan's Garment District announces itself in a cacophony of honking horns and deafening jackhammers, throngs of pedestrians surging around weaving bicycle messengers and clothing on rolling racks—the last place to feel calm. So it's with wonder that one first experiences the Bill Blass New York showroom. Visually soothing and acoustically serene, it's everything the world outside is not.
"From the very beginning, our goal was to emphasize an atmosphere of ease," SPG Architects partner Eric Gartner says. "The clients should linger as they would at home, trying on the clothes without feeling self-conscious. To make this seem natural, everything in the space is designed to allude to a domestic setting." Opulent materials in soothing neutral tones create a quiet confidence, and milky-white illumination softens the gentle modernism.
The 2,000-square-foot space is a long rectangle comprising reception, the showroom proper, and a conference room. When the acid-etched glass doors at either end of the showroom slide open, all three areas flow together. When one or both sets of doors slide shut, Gartner explains, "It's contained and private but not closed in. Life beyond the doors is always visible—if blurred."
Reception's crisp white walls and honed marble floor, their stylish simplicity well suited to the Bill Blass look, soon give way to the showroom's bleached-anigré paneling, with its rippling grain, and pearl-gray carpet that feels homey underfoot. To ensure that the ever changing seasonal palette takes center stage, Gartner kept the envelope pale. White plastic laminate clads two rectangular niches that reverently frame the clothing—their linearity serves as a foil to the softness and drape of, say, a box-pleated skirt or a three-quarter-sleeve jacket.
The two display niches, each flanked by shelving units, preside over two seating areas. And that's just one example of how Gartner designed repeats to add functionality. Twin desks, where salespeople sit, border dual fitting rooms, one beside the other. Mirrors installed on either side of the sliding doors multiply these pairings into infinity.
As the warm afternoon sun shines through the windows, clients move easily about the showroom, heels sinking into the carpet, hands reaching for the skirt, the blouse, the jacket that's going to be just right this season. "Fashion changes constantly," Gartner says. "But architecture is always the backdrop."