A Grand Entrance
After more than 40 years in the business of making glorious surfacing materials, then merchandising them through various distributors, Maya Romanoff decided it was high time for a place of his own.
Bradley Lincoln -- Interior Design, 5/1/2011 12:42:00 PM
firm: design collaboratives
After more than 40 years in the business of making glorious surfacing materials, then merchandising them through various distributors, Maya Romanoff decided it was high time for a place of his own. So he and his wife, Joyce, president of the Maya Romanoff Corporation, hired Design Collaboratives to transform a 3,200-square-foot space at Chicago's Merchandise Mart into a showroom where nearly every surface is sheathed in product. "Branded environments should be experiential, not just graphics applied to a build-out," principal Tom Marquardt says.
The moment that visitors step off the elevator and turn the corner, they're lured toward the showroom by a sweep of shimmering taupe wall covering that backdrops the Maya Romanoff name, rendered in 3-foot-tall backlit letters. A graduated ceiling soffit reinforces the message by angling toward the entrance's sliding glass doors. Through them, almost all of the vaguely triangular space is on view, thanks to a radial plan eschewing the rat-maze layout too common for showrooms.
"The way the space unfolds creates a mood of reverence that's perfect for this client," principal Mary Beth Rampolla notes. Marquardt explains: "Maya is a metaphysical man, influenced by Buddhist philosophy. At the same time, though, he's always brought a playful, irreverent approach to the business-ever since the 1960's, when he started making tie-dyed fabrics inspired by the hippies of Woodstock." To embody the balance of rarefied and earthy, Design Collaboratives looked to ancient temples and other holy spaces. Large, chunky forms give a sense of solidity and timelessness.
"We increased the vertical scale whenever we could, for obvious reasons," Marquardt says. And no vertical surface was overlooked. Design Collaboratives applied shimmering wall coverings everywhere from a chandelier's multiple drum shades to the structural columns' enclosures. As a gritty foil to the polished elegance, most of the ceiling deck remains exposed, and the engineered-cement floor was troweled on and allowed to show imperfections. "Cold, uniform illumination would have destroyed the subtlety and depth of these surfaces," Marquardt adds-which explains why Design Collaboratives took the light level down by 40 percent. Lighting dapples seductively, giving the showroom a noirish drama.
The rear lounge is anchored by a coffee table with a massive round ruby-red top almost entirely covered by an intricate bas-relief of Maya Romanoff's entwined lotus logo-rendered in the hand-applied glass beads of the company's Beadazzled line. Around the table, armchairs offer comfortable vantage points for examining a wall displaying movable magnetized rectangles of every product and colorway in the Maya Romanoff arsenal. No flipping through sample books here.
If a 7-by-8-inch rectangle doesn't suffice, product also appears as 5-by-9-foot double-sided panels. Developing a pullout rack system to showcase them was one of the project's most challenging aspects. "We had millworkers build a box to scale, so we could experiment with the mechanics of looking at surface materials and perfect the hands-on experience," Marquardt says. Design Collaboratives tested substrates to maximize size, without warping or vibration, and to make sure that the 81 racks would slide out with ease and return to their slots with a satisfying click.
While the pullout system commands the majority of real estate on one side of the showroom, 13 of the latest introductions get special treatment along the window wall opposite. Most of these panels are suspended from bronze fabric hangers that pivot to manipulate the amount of sunlight shining through. Both types of displays feature custom bronze handles that Rampolla describes as "an homage to Maya as a pioneer of artisanal products. There's not a piece of off-the-shelf hardware to be found in this project. We really put our hearts into it." And the first time that Joyce Romanoff walked into the completed space, she actually cried tears of joy.
Photography by Michelle Litvin.
ENVIRONMENTAL LIGHTS: LED FIXTURES (ENTRY).
LIGHTOLIER: TRACK LIGHTING (SHOWROOM).
UTTERMOST: PENDANT FIXTURES.
ACCURIDE: CUSTOM PULLS.
BRIGHT CHAIR COMPANY: CHAIRS.
ALAN'S DRAPERIES: CUSTOM CURTAIN.
HALLMARK COLLECTIVE: CUSTOM CHANDELIER.
LOZIER CORPORATION: SHELVING (STORAGE).
N'DIO; SIGN A RAMA: CUSTOM SIGNAGE.
ARDEX GROUP: FLOORING.
SHERWINWILLIAMS COMPANY: PAINT.
RUPSIS ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS: ARCHITECT OF RECORD.
KORNAS CORPORATION: AUDIOVISUAL CONSULTANT.
AVENUE METAL CO.: METALWORK.
GLASS SOLUTIONS: GLASSWORK.
TITAN ELECTRIC: ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR.
ASHLAND PLUMBING & HEATING CO.: PLUMBING CONTRACTOR.
MR. DAVID'S FLOORING INTERNATIONAL: FLOORING CONTRACTOR.
TRIANGLE DECORATING COMPANY: PAINTING CONTRACTOR.
BEAR CONSTRUCTION COMPANY: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.