marquardt+ (work performed as Design Collaboratives) had the honor to establish a connection with the Romanoff family that is rare and hard to find. From the start of the project, their personal and professional ethics, as well as approach were in perfect alignment with our own. Expansively successful and highly effective, the Maya Romanoff Flagship Showroom at the Merchandise Mart Chicago was developed through mutual trust and a personal connection. The experience was a testament to the importance of transparency and faith during the design process, and is a true representation of a Branded Environment, both in process and project type.
Maya Romanoff is an artist and designer first, who has always brought a creative, playful and almost irreverent artisan approach to his product design and development. He always pushes to design surfaces with unexpected material combinations that create a visual metaphor, resulting in extraordinary surfacing materials. The product is fine art in its design and quality. Applied as a surfacing material, it brings a layer of refinement and beauty to sophisticated installations for a multitude of project types including residential, commercial, hospitality and more. It is uninhibited, free and spiritual.
At the first meeting we knew that the space would be a manifestation of these qualities and the Romanoffs' personal philosophies and approach, which are clearly influenced by Buddhism, elegance and the desire to push the envelope. From this understanding, marquardt+ conceptualized the space as an experiential line between artisan and elegance where the brand can be experienced, not just seen through the application of identity colors and logos.
The marquardt+ team drew inspiration from temples and other places of reverence, as well as spaces with exceptional elegance and quality in combination with the earthen sensibilities, textures and palettes found in Maya Romanoff product. We imagined an environment that would be lavished with their product and installed on as many surfaces as possible. Although this was a showroom, marquardt+ understood that unconventionally low, focused lighting was essential to providing a feeling of calm and beauty, important in showcasing the product.
The interior architecture that marquardt+ developed encourages entry, flow, movement and custom display opportunities, beginning with the floor detail that draws people down the long corridor and through the showroom entry expanding and continuing in the swoop of the ceiling soffit through the space. A radial grid pattern was used to organize all elements in the space, fanning out from a conceptual source point located at the inside corner edge of the showroom entry.
The underlying radial grid system aligns and tapers every element in the space, including the expanding angle of the entry corridor. This encourages entry and understanding of the space and also provides a complete and unobstructed view of the entire showroom space from the point of entry and reception area. As well, the column enclosures are shaped with the Dymaxion car form in mind so occupants visually and physically flow past them. By nature of this shape, the massive structural columns are broken down and instead become elegant displays for additional product application, putting the product forward in the best light and luster. Even the custom work tables edges are generously radiused, surfaced with Maya Romanoff product and support the feeling of solidity, flow and calmness.
The space, by nature of its plan and location on the northwest corner of the Merchandise Mart, is defined by a series of (6) faceted walls and thus not a right-angled box. Unlike other showrooms with this plan in the Mart, the marquardt+ team chose to work with the complexity of the wall angles tocreate and emphasize it with the radial grid plan and viewpoints. This allowed us to introduce a flow of curves through the angles versus working against the plan by imposing a grid or box. Again, working with the space rather than against it informed our design conceptualization and inspired the hierarchy of the space, location of the displays and product distribution.
The ceiling opens up to expose the rough deck above, the floor is revealed and coated with Ardex floor leveler and at more intimate levels there are artisan surprises to be discovered, like the illuminated display of Beadazzled plexi panels at the back wall, the pullout panel run and the custom red Beadazzled 78" diameter coffee table with the subtle Romanoff Lotus Logo. The custom chandeliers and pendants act as surprising display units with additional Romanoff surfacing materials, along with the custom worktables, column enclosures and fabric door drapes. The back room is a slice defined by the radial grid, thus not apparent as a support space because its shape denies any clear right angles that would conventionalize the showroom and deny the plan. Entries on both ends of the back room are not doorways but draped openings that also become Romanoff fabric display opportunities.
All metal in the space is rubbed, antique bronze. We established this color as the perfect neutral that is layered with the Maya Romanoff palettes. marquardt+ custom designed and engineered the 9'H x 5'W pivot panels that layer over each other, displaying new introductions and featured Romanoff product and define the curve at the entry, drawing visitors past the reception desk and hospitality table. Following is a series of custom, moveable, magnetized panels developed for the display of every product texture SKU Romanoff has to offer. At this point, visitors may review their choices while resting at the lounge seating and large ruby red Beadazzled 78" diameter coffee table. As they proceed, they can view a series of panels with the Romanoff fabric presentation, prior to returning along the (81) 9'H x 2.5'W pull out display panels showcasing Romanoff products. When pulled out they reveal a bronze sku strip with product descriptions and swatches of that pattern's color palette. These pull out panels intentionally move with a weight and elegance that echoes the quality and elegance of the product itself. Even the back wall of the pull out panels showcases product with full height plexi panels covered in Romanoff's Beadazzled product and softly illuminated on the top and bottom edges with warm LED lighting to create a glow and beauty in what would normally be a dark recess. Across from these pull out panels are two 12.5' counter height worktables with Maya Romanoff upholstered pull up chairs for visitors to engage product and enjoy their time in the space.
The size and massing of all the elements within the space mirror the weight of grounded confidence and timelessness. The product itself, applied in ways and quantities that would be a challenge to other product lines, speaks to the ensemble capabilities of the Romanoff product and ability to be combined.
We also engaged the product in ways that are elevated to the product itself. The space is a space of service, elegance, rough against finished, intimate yet expansive. When CEO Joyce Romanoff first entered the completed space she found herself crying. She expressed recognition of the specialness and experiential feeling of the showroom build out as a direct personal and professional manifestation of the Romanoff brand, and more so, of Maya Romanoff himself. This is client recognition we often receive because of the comprehensive nature of our work and what we base our studio approach and processes on for every project. We are proud and honored to have developed this project with the Romanoffs and consider them among our most revered of clients.
marquardt+ was responsible for all design and project work including demolition drawings and coordination, concept, design, development, interior architecture and design, HVAC resolutions, furniture, finish and materials specifications, design of all custom millwork, hardware and display systems (which we also engineered), complete construction documents, construction coordination, marketing renderings, and photography staging and direction with the help of the Romanoffs.