La Prairie Style
The worldwide headquarters of a cosmetics company are wrapped in a silky smooth skin by D'Aquino Monaco.
Abby Bussel -- Interior Design, 2/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
STEP AWAY, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT . The elite cosmetics company La Prairie has its own way of doing things, its own product technology, and its own distinctive style. It is a company that honors its heritage and looks to the future, as the design of La Prairie's worldwide headquarters in New York City reflects. "There's a 'techno' aspect to the company," according to Carl D'Aquino, who designed the offices with his partner Francine Monaco. He is referring to the "state-of-the-art" Cellular Complex developed by the company (which traces its roots to the La Prairie Clinic in Montreux, Switzerland) to fight the insidious aging process that seems to creep up on even the best of us. The packaging is as precisely engineered as the luxury product it is designed to sell.
The company's former headquarters was wood paneled; private offices created artificial barriers. With the opportunity to design new digs, President Lynne M. Florio wanted a more interactive environment, one in which a culture characterized by teamwork would be the norm. "There is no bureaucracy at the new La Prairie," explains Florio. "We are few in number and we all pull together to get the job done." And they do so in a very La Prairie style. D'Aquino Monaco, a firm that applies the same signature-free, client-comes-first philosophy to its commercial and residential projects, took its design cue for La Prairie from the product line's polished silver-and-white boxes and bottles with cobalt-blue accents. With the help of project team members Nathaniel Worden, Fani Budic, Lisa Garriss, Patrick Killian, and Jeff Doucette, principals D'Aquino and Monaco created a flexible space defined by the company's trademark color scheme.
The elevator lobby, with its cobalt-colored plaster walls and silver-leafed ceiling, marks the transition from the city to the prairie. The 12,000-sq.-ft. interior is organized into function-related precincts. All public areas-reception area, conference room, showroom-occupy the midsection of the space and sit beneath a softly vaulted ceiling. The reception area holds Martin Van Severen's "White Bench," its strongly geometric lines providing seating for visitors. Verner Panton's iconic plastic chair, in white, is used in the reception area and throughout the offices as a guest chair. The conference room is lined with silver-leaf, making a Deco-like package out of the whole room. Warren McArthur chairs surround polished black granite and polished chrome conference tables that can be used as one large surface or separated for use by small groups of people.
In contrast to the curved canopy over the common areas, flat, perforated-metal ceilings are employed at the perimeter, where open work stations and the executive suite-the office's "private" areas-are located. Freestanding storage units separate work stations to provide some sense of individual work areas and to make economical use of the space. The units can be accessed from both sides and hold shelving and file storage. Sheer silver moiré fabric lines the walls outside the two main office corridors, bringing natural light from the window walls into the core of the interior; a custom extruded track of anodized aluminum holds the translucent fabric in place.
A large Art Deco mirror dominates the executive suite, which holds the president's office and lounge/conference area. To differentiate the suite from the rest of the office, the wall behind the president's desk is painted in a dramatic red color. The chairs in her lounge area are also red, further accentuating her position and playing off the silver and blue theme employed, La Prairie-style, throughout the interior.
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