A Modern-day Mondrian Masterpiece
Vibrant Color Entices Foot-traffic into this West Village Coffee Café!
I had been talking to the café owners for several months when I finally got to see their rented commercial space. As a successful owner of several cafes and bars in Germany, the husband of the couple had found a contractor and things were already well underway. But although the location was great, the bones of the space were getting in the way of their thinking - they felt stuck – they needed a design concept!
That’s where I came in.
I walked into the disheveled, dusty 2500 sq ft space to meet the café owners and contractor face-to-face. The windows had been papered over for privacy – and to create a sense of mystery. It was hard to see around the piles of materials. The walls and multi-beamed ceiling were mostly antique white; the new tile floor was concrete gray. It turned out that the person “in charge” was going to be the wife of the couple, Lisa. We got coffees and sat and talked – and walked around the space – and talked some more. All the while, I was looking at the space, weighing the pros and cons and hearing what they planned to serve, that they’ve ordered custom tables and chairs, and they wanted to serve pastries and light lunches and coffees and then wine and cheeses, and of course, coffees, in the evenings. And I kept thinking: what would give this place some welcoming pizzazz? How can I make the bones of this space really work to our advantage?
And I had a great idea based on the work of the artist Mondrian! But with white grid-work, not black! I tried to explain my idea – but Lisa wasn’t really familiar with Mondrian’s work. I knew it would work – but they needed something more to go on. The white beams would make visual sense of the existing structural elements (beams and pilasters). Between the beams, we could paint each flat plane its own color. My color choices would welcome you in, divide up the space geometrically, visually balance each subsection and lead you in towards the serving counter! Depending on your personal preferences, you could easily find a spot that would suit your mood!
I created several sketches with alternative color schemes. Once we’d picked a scheme, and tweaked a few color choices a couple of times, then I made a color map to show exactly where each of the 20+ colors was meant to go. The painters did a great job and when Café Christopher launched, the neighborhood rushed in to enjoy the place - welcoming it with open arms!
Penn & Fletcher, Inc.
Artisan Embroidery Business Expands in Long Island City, NY
My Penn & Fletcher, Inc. clients, Edgar and Stephen, were very good friends from all our years as design members of United Scenic Artists Local 829 (the Broadway and film/TV designers union). We knew many of the same people and had worked together, off and on, in the NY theater scene and at various New England venues. Upon hearing that I’d gone to architecture school, Edgar encouraged his business partner Stephen to explore interior design school, which he did with resounding success!
Out of school, with a few years of being a design associate under his belt, Stephen invited my business partnership-at-the-time, Springpoint Design, and me, to be the architects of record on several elaborate residential design projects. About this same time, Edgar, who had been teaching design at SUNY Purchase, stepped sideways out of the theater and, with 23+ auction-purchased, vintage embroidery machines, opened Penn & Fletcher, Inc., in a 2nd floor factory space in the Garment District. They were sought after to provide unique, one-of-a-kind embroidery work on costumes for the Metropolitan Opera, Radio City and many Broadway shows.
Their circles of connections and visibility were growing. They had been invited to be on Martha Stewart’s TV show a number of times - creating one-of-a-kind, custom items for her various homes. Their beautiful work was featured at not-for-profit showhouses and in magazine spreads. When Edgar, and Stephen (who was a silent partner in Penn & Fletcher) invited me to their Garment District space – and asked me to help them “space plan” their factory – I was glad to help! It was, however, an impossible challenge: they didn’t have the square footage at that location to handle the newly refurbished machines that they wanted to install in order to increase their repertoire of embroidery techniques.
About three months later, Edgar asked me to consult on how to allocate and divide up their newly acquired 10,000 square foot factory space in Long Island City, NY! The space was a raw, loft-space with stocky concrete columns, concrete floors and industrial windows along every exterior wall. We figured out where to put the partitions, how to effectively use and highlight existing industrial features, what type and where to put the lighting and lighting controls, and how to arrange the various machines, the prep spaces and the finishing tables in each work room. It was fascinating to learn about all the techniques they had at their disposal. I enjoyed giving them the perfect home base to grow in!