Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Walk into Suzanne Felsen, a Los Angeles jewelry boutique by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, and look straight up—you're sure to be surprised. The ceiling is aflutter with strips of white flagging tape, hand-tied around a steel grid. "It's stunning and simple," designer Suzanne Felsen says.
So are her experimentations with such semiprecious and precious rarities as rainbow moonstones and green beryl. If you ran into Mena Suvari at the Golden Globes recently, perhaps you noticed that watermelon tourmaline around her neck. Another piece starred in the comedy-drama Spanglish.
This store is Felsen's second by Koning Eizenberg. In 1998, she and her business partner, Roger Merians, opened their first shop among the art galleries of the Bergamot Station complex. Industrial and loftlike, it has a concrete floor and a high ceiling.
Hoping to open a second location, the partners had been keeping an eye on Melrose Avenue's burgeoning fashion scene. Expansion plans solidified when the duo found a 1920's Spanish colonial, just blocks from Fred Segal and Paul Smith.
Once the sale was final, Eizenberg and Hank Koning began their research: visiting Mikimoto, Van Cleef & Arpels, and other big-name jewelry stores around town. "They were all about dark woods and power," Eizenberg says. "We were going for a more lighthearted environment."
In keeping with that unserious vision, Koning Eizenberg relocated the front entry, ripping out an existing door and building a new storefront around the corner. This boxy white smooth-troweled stucco addition is fronted by a black-painted steel plate with Felsen's logo cut out in the center. Meanwhile, the original house retains its Spanish colonial barrel-tiled roof; exterior walls are painted gray. Like her jewelry, classically inspired with a modern edge, the total package is understated but gutsy.
Beneath the tape-strip ceiling inside, a spare envelope serves as a backdrop for exceptional pieces. Turquoise leather on a pair of Patricia Urquiola chairs really pops against the new gray-painted oak flooring—the chairs are arranged near a small square fireplace that was unearthed during demolition. Nearby, coral-colored arabesques form a medallion in the center of a round taupe rug.
Inventive display fixtures join top-tier European contemporary furnishings to form what Eizenberg describes as a "collection, not one pervasive move." Along a sidewall in the front, women's rings, earrings, and bracelets are displayed in her rift-cut oak cabinet, its lower section pleated like a sexy, flowing skirt. There are also two long cases of white resin topped by clear glass. "Suzanne wasn't sure they would be luxurious enough," Eizenberg admits. "But they float well in the small space."
Above one of those resin cases, glass-fronted display niches alternate with rectangular mirrored panels covered with polyester optical film. Straight on, it's translucent; from an angle, the surface becomes transparent. "It's a way of having reflections without too much mirror everywhere," Eizenberg explains.
Along the rear wall, a rosy glow from gelled fluorescents beckons customers up two steps to an area designated for engagement and wedding jewelry. After taking in the unusual diamond settings housed in their own case, couples confer with Felsen at her leather-topped beech antique desk. Brides-to-be can ogle their newly adorned fingers in the supersize round mirror built into an oak-faced transaction counter.
The 1,300-square-interior includes a simple 300-square-foot side office, where Felsen sketches her jewelry designs and meets with clients at a desk topped in cherry-red linoleum laminate. Behind the desk, she hung an Ellsworth Kelly lithograph, one of the few pieces of art on the premises.
Out front, near the fireplace, there's another notable lithograph. It's Jonathan Borofsky's aptly named I Dreamed I Found a Red Ruby.