Interiors Awards 2017: Showroom

Bound by a canted side wall that folds away to uncover an angled light source, the reception desk and back wall are clad with Calacatta marble and appear to hover above the terrazzo floors. Photography by Eric Laignel

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Bernhardt Design New York Showroom
Designer: Rottet Studio
Client: Bernhardt Design
Location: New York

“This showroom is detailed, luxurious, and tone on tone, reflecting the craftsmanship of the furniture as it takes a more museumlike approach. The design supports the products on display as opposed to dominating them, all without taking a backseat. It’s so well executed.”—Jury

Having outgrown its previous New York showroom, Bernhardt Design needed a comfortable yet intimate new space that would reflect its contemporary brand identity. Securing this in the third-floor interior of a century-old building on lower Madison Avenue that boasts nearly full-block frontage, the company turned to Lauren Rottet and her firm Rottet Studio to conceive a crisp, museumlike flagship showroom.

Bernhardt Design—created in 1981 for the family-owned, 128-year-old Bernhardt Furniture Company—is known for its high-quality commercial furniture design and production. With a relationship that extends nearly two decades, Rottet Studio designed Bernhardt’s Merchandise Mart showroom in Chicago, its previous Manhattan showroom overlooking Bryant Park, as well as several of the company’s products.

“From a conceptual standpoint [for the new showroom],” Rottet says, “there was a collective consensus to continue in the spirit and attitude of the Chicago showroom that we had designed, keeping the white, ethereal residential loft feel with just enough walls to display the product properly.”

Rottet and her colleagues developed an intentionally illusive interior that unfolds with a hierarchy of spaces in a scripted manner. A milky milieu defines the 20,000-square-foot showroom, functioning as a frosted framework for the collections. “In the design process,” Rottet says, “we created an architectural style we felt matched the Bernhardt Design brand: subtle and minimal but rich in detail; not overly crowded yet welcoming for designers and clients. The space is similar to a museum in which you want to enjoy the displayed pieces but also appreciate the surroundings.”

Upon stepping off the elevator, one arrives in an immersive entry that reverberates with the ambient glow cast from the backlit insignias adorning the walls. A glass reveal allows a peek into the showroom beyond. The tracing of these translucent slices fosters a floating feeling that follows into the adjacent reception area. “The entry is a perfect example of how design elements were used for wayfinding as well as for visual impact,” says Carolyn Smith, brand director of Bernhardt Design.

Flecked by subtle streaks of gray, colossal slabs of Calacatta marble clad the reception desk and back wall, which together appear to hover delicately above the glossy terrazzo floors. Turkish porcelain was used to achieve a pure white color underfoot, with a gleaming surface that contributes to the notion of infinite space throughout the showroom. The reception area is bordered by a canted side wall, which folds away to uncover a delicately angled light source that traverses the entire span of the showroom.

“Going from low to high, the various ceiling heights and light gradients act as crescendos, all leading to the main gallery,” says Smith. Carving an illuminated pathway into the main showroom, a stream of LED light radiates beneath cleverly placed partitions, which seem to float as they actively serve to both screen and expose interior elements. Augmenting the enormity of the central space, the ceiling planes are carved away to expose blackened voids above, which reach a top height of 14 feet. Canted back and held up from the floor, froth-colored side walls further adhere to the muted, austere palette and provide a blank backdrop for furniture vignettes.

Sunlight emanates through the sheer drapery that veils a nearly block-long row of tall windows, adding subtle movement to the gallery, which is intermittently accented by knife-edge details to downplay visual mass and amplify a weightless feel. Echoing the reception area, a white Calacatta marble slab at the far end is a backdrop to the bar with a seamless backlit Krion panel at one side.

The angles of light, monochromatic palette, and canted canvaslike walls work in tandem to deliver a stunning environment to showcase Bernhardt Design’s furnishings. “The detailing becomes the punctuation of the space,” says Smith. “Whether it’s a play on texture, a floating knife edge, or a secret light reveal, the overall experience is enhanced as people discover these distinctive refinements.”

who Architect and interior designer: Rottet Studio. Project team: Lauren Rottet; David Davis; Josef Jelinek; James Cull; Ashley Liu; Kefan Lu; Laurence Cartledge; Harout Dedeyan; Jerry Helling; Carolyn Smith; Joseph Namyst; Randy Icard. Contractor: O+D Builders. Lighting: ONELux studio. Engineering: Jack Green Associates Consulting Engineers. AV: Spectra Audio Design Group. Structural: The Office of James Ruderman.
what Laminate: Formica. Walls: Chelsea Carpenters; Artistic Tile; Krion. Flooring: Amadeus Marble & Granite; Armstrong. Carpet: Mohawk Group. Lighting: Contech Lighting; USAI Lighting; Gotham; Jake Dyson Lighting; Alessi Accessories; Coronet; Eco Sense. Doors: C.R. Laurence. Window treatments: Marks & Tavano Workroom. Drapery: Windowtex. Workstations/ seating: Bernhardt Design. Upholstery: Bernhardt Textiles. Signage: Superior Metal & Woodwork. Plumbing fixtures: Toto; Dornbracht; Kohler.