Men At Work
A New York boutique by David Mann, Atelier’s got the brawn and the brains
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Maybe it’s the arched windows. Or perhaps it’s the no-frills lighting and the noncolor colors. Or the exalted ceiling height, not to mention the 13-foot-tall folding mirror standing at one end, like a minimalist triptych. Whatever it is, the latest Atelier menswear boutique undeniably has it. MR Architecture + Decor principal David Mann calls the effect “simple and sophisticated—in a New York kind of way.”
New York indeed. Situated inside a century-old printing house a few SoHo blocks away from much smaller previous quarters, the 1,900-square-foot new space bears all the hallmarks of the millennial avant-garde: concrete flooring, a gray-on-gray palette accented with, of course, black, and serious conceptual art—think Richard Serra and Joseph Beuys. “To work with that aesthetic,” Mann continues, he was fortunate in having a “pretty raw space” to start with, a clean rectangular plan with generous windows on two elevations.
He reduced the two existing entries to one, then replaced its rusted steel doors with glass. The other entry is now a full-height display window. For a slightly distressed look, he partially stripped the many layers of paint from the steel frames of the windows and doorway. To further emphasize the postindustrial vibe, he installed a new concrete floor, tinted black. Stripping the plaster from the columns revealed original cast-iron I beams inside.
Mann designed an accessories-display table of low-iron glass, resin-composite recycled paper, and tough blackened steel. The latter reappears in the square-rod clothing racks that, he notes, define one end of the space “like a room.” Restraint continues to the point of decadence with the 16-foot-long cash-wrap counter of smoked glass back-painted gray. Behind, three horizontal rows of black drawers, in the same resin-composite paper, form a 52-foot-wide grid flush with the wall.
Above the drawers, gray Venetian plaster serves as a backdrop for a knockout procession consisting of a Serra print, a Beuys felt suit, and a Hiroshi Sugimoto photograph. Co-owner Constantin von Haeften is a former art dealer who also sold antiques and vintage furniture from 1995 to 2000 at the eclectic furnishings shop the Coconut Company, now home to a Rick Owens boutique owned by Von Haeften and his Atelier partner, Karlo Steel. Two black-and-white August Sander photographs show a young student and three farmers, respectively. A chunk of compacted scrap metal is by César Baldaccini, who generally went by his first name alone—like his sculpture that became the Oscar of French film.
Calling the lighting “something like an art installation,” Mann also describes it as “our trickiest task.” He chose overhead fluorescent fixtures in keeping with the shop’s cool sensibility. But how to make them flattering? “A cool light gives the clothes a crisp look,” project architect Chris Benfield says. “Still, we had to balance the cool with warmth, so customers wouldn’t feel like they were shopping at a supermarket.” Sliding colored gels over the fluorescents, arranged in a staggered grid, gave them a subtly gray-violet glow. Interspersing halogen track lighting for filler resulted in a pleasing warm-cool combination.
To offset the overall austerity, Mann added moments of rich texture, such as the black hair-on cowhide covering the fitting rooms’ walls. “It was about an elegant expression of space, even though it’s minimalist,” he explains. The two rooms are concealed by the hinged side panels of the huge three-part mirror.
In front of the mirror, a sitting area consists of a Maison Jansen settee, covered in manly black leather, and an Italian stainless-steel cocktail table from the ’70’s. Almost every piece of furniture at Atelier comes with a provenance. Even the fitting rooms’ armchairs, in a yellowish anodized stainless, are rare furniture designs by Rei Kawakubo, whose fashion-forward Comme des Garçons jackets, pants, and shirts are right outside, ready to try on.
Robin Corsino; Lauren Mcmanama: Mr Architecture + Decor. Lumen Architecture: Lighting Consultant. Linwood Engineering Associates: Mep. Material Process Systems: Woodwork. Garadice Builders: General Contractor.
From Front: Paneltech International: Drawer, Tabletop Material (Sales Floor). Soraya: Custom Racks. Mmj Lighting 96 Through Cmt Lighting Company: Linear Fixtures. Lightolier: Track Lighting. Spinneybeck: Wall Covering (Fitting Room). Throughout: Mapei Corporation: Flooring. Benjamin Moore & Co.: Paint.