Tuesday, January 18, 2011

LA Mart Design Center Window Displays

I just had the best/busiest 5 days. I got home last night around 3 am from finishing up my window displays at the LA Mart Design Center. Friday was a low point, full of stress, and I even shed a few tears, but it was all up hill from there. I love how projects like this, with so many restrictions (time, money, furnishings), force me to make something beautiful out of whatever I have available.

The design request.
I was hired by the LA Mart marketing team to create window displays and a seating area for the elevator lobbies of 3 floors at the Mart where the designer showrooms are located. Each floor has 2 window displays (without glass) and a center area where they requested some type of lounge seating. Each floor needed to be a different concept; something sophisticated and current. I was to use furniture and accessories from the showrooms throughout the Mart and then enhance the displays with whatever else I needed to bring in on my own. I was given complete creative freedom and I didn't even have to run my ideas by anyone, they basically trusted me enough to let me do whatever I wanted. (My favorite kind of client!)

My restrictions.
I was contacted last Tuesday, then met with the marketing team last Wednesday morning, but the windows needed to be completed by opening the following Tuesday for the big California Gift Show. To say that I was short on time to completely design 3 lobby areas, doesn't justly describe how rushed this whole project was.

*I didn't have an assistant or handyman to help me. Normally they would have given me someone to help out, but because of the upcoming gift show, there was so much that needed to be done and apparently I was low on the totum pole of people to help. This meant that all drilling, hanging, painting, moving, taping, cutting, and hammering had to be done by your's truly. It was so last minute, especially working such late nights and throughout the weekend, and the installation portion was so sporatic, that I couldn't really hire anyone to help. However, I am fortunate enough to have an amazingly beautiful and kind sister and brother-in-law who were an ENORMOUS help on Saturday night with painting and drilling.

*I was suppose to use product from the showrooms at the Mart, but because the windows were last minute and everyone was busy setting up their own showrooms for the gift show, very few showrooms wanted to give me product. Some would give one or two items, and some wouldn't give me anything (that's when the tears started). Luckily, there were a select few who were more than generous, so that gave me some sort of starting point, although my variety of product was still very limited.

My concepts.
After meeting with the marketing team, I did a quick walk through of the showrooms then headed back home to brain storm. After flipping through some magazines, google image searching window displays, and looking through some of my design books, I came up with three concepts, one for each of my floors:

*Concept 1. A collection of black & white wall art/mirrors and accessories with bluish/greenish/yellowish furnishings showcased in front. See inspiration photo below via Kelly Wearstler's Hue, along with some very rough sketches to help me keep track of my ideas.

(Hue was an amazing inspiration for me because Ms. Wearstler uses bold color so well; fun yet sophisticated.)

*Concept 2. Maps & travel, using map wallpaper and a collection of globes, artifacts, and books. See inspiration photo below via Daniel Sachs' design in the October 2010 House Beautiful.

*Concept 3. Art Deco, incorporating blues, pinks, & oranges using fabric panels hung on the wall displaying my color scheme and art deco pattern. This was inspired by my recent trip to Miami. Here are some additional inspiration photos that I pulled from the Internet.

Problems & obstacles.
As I mentioned before, many showrooms wouldn't give me furniture/accessories to use, or they were very selective about what they would let me have, so I had to throw most of my original concept ideas out the window and reconfigure my design ideas to work around the furnishings and accessories that I did have access to.

*Concept 1, I wasn't able to use any celedon/blue/green/yellow furniture. Almost all of the furniture I had access to was white, black, or some color of brown wood.

*Concept 2, I had sufficient furniture to work with for this scheme, but I couldn't get my hands on any map wallpaper in the time frame that I needed without paying a fortune. My back up plan was to then purchase large antique map posters online (brick & mortar poster stores are virtually extinct) and expedite the shipping. Once I received the posters I would frame them and display picture groupings instead of covering the entire wall. The only problem with that was that the posters never shipped. In fact, the posters still haven't shipped, which is good because now I don't want them anyway. I would, however, like my $70 back, but when you call to check up on things, you only get a message service and there isn't a contact email listed anywhere on the site. I wouldn't recommend using Poster Revolution; they made my life very difficult last week.

I also had this idea of having globes all over in the display; on the floor, on the tables, hanging from the ceiling. But alas, I could only get my hands on 3 globes. I was worried it wasn't enough to make a statement.

*Concept 3, again, I couldn't find furniture in my color scheme for art deco, nor could I find any fabric in the garment district that even slightly resembled art deco.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Improvising is something that I have been forced to learn how to do when staging a room, vignette, window, etc. As stressful as it can be, in the end, I always enjoy seeing what I was able to create having my design steered around certain obstacles. It's always going to be a little different from what I have envisioned in my head, but that doesn't mean it's going to be less beautiful.

*Concept 1: When I realized that I didn't have any celedon/blue/green furnishings to work with, I knew I didn't want to just do black and white furnishings on a black and white background, so instead, I changed my original idea of having a black and white wall with colored furnishings, to having a bold colored wall with black and white furnishings.

I also had an over abundance of mid century/Hollywood glam looking accessories, so as much as I try not to imitate other designers, I decided to just embrace what I had and channel Kelly Wearstler, a la the Viceroy Santa Monica. All I had were the images in my head for reference, but when the windows were finished, I google image searched the Viceroy Santa Monica, and the styles actually were fairly similar. What can I say, I have a great memory when it comes to recalling interiors.

Viceroy Santa Monica:

Quick sketches to reconfigure the windows with the new concept:

Work in progress:

Finished product:

*Concept 2: By the time I realized that Poster Revolution was not going to deliver on time, it was too late to place an online order with any other poster company. That meant it was time to hit up a copy and print store. I was reluctant to do so because I know how pricey getting things printed can be, and I was working on such a limited budget. But after doing a little price comparison on Saturday, I found Arnold's Printing in Studio City. They were much less expensive than Staples or FedEx Office, and the best part about going to a mom & pop copy shop was that they have a much quicker turn around time, which was imperative seeing as I was down to just 2 days to have the windows completed. I bought 4 different stock photos of some cool maps on dreamstime.com then cropped and resized them before sending them to print.

I bought inexpensive artwork and mirrors in various sizes from the thrift store, then tossed the generic art and took the frames and spray painted them a high gloss red. I wanted the map artwork to have a very raw feel to it, so I didn't put the glass over the top of the the pictures. Since I was lacking a substantial collection of globes, I borrowed books from one of the showrooms and British sail boats to help me accessorize.

When I found the British sailboats at the Bassman-Blaine showroom, I immediately remembered some fabric that I had in my large scrap fabric collection. It was a blue and red wool hounds tooth, straight from London, that I bought at a garage sale a couple of years ago for $1. I sewed up 2 hounds tooth pillows on Sunday, along with a blue and white striped lumbar. The beauty of being an interior designer/fabric hoarder is that I had all of that stuff just laying around, including the pillow fills. Although, we all know that sewing isn't my strong suit, so hopefully no one will look too closely at my pillows in the display.

Quick sketches to reconfigure the windows with the new concept:

Work in progress:

Finished product:

*Concept 3: It was getting late in the garment district of downtown LA on Friday and everyone was about to close. There was no art deco anything anywhere, so it was time to just pick a fabric. It was then and there that I decided I was going to have to do another window with a colorful background and monochromatic furnishings in the foreground. I started to think it could be kind of cool to do shades of white for my furnishings, which meant that I would need a fabric background that had virtually no white, to make the furnishings pop. I stumbled upon a lively lavendar floral. I don't work much with lavendar, it's just not a popular color amongst my clients, but I actually really love the color, so now was my chance to get my lavendar fix. 7 yards and $140 later, I left Michael Levine and headed back to the Mart late Friday night.

Since the Mart was closed on Saturday & Sunday, I had access to the building to paint and hang, but not access to any of the showrooms to pull furniture. My lavendar/white scheme was the last to come together as I was scrambling to find enough white furnishings to fill up the windows on Monday.

Over the weekend, as I lay in bed going over my to do list for the windows, I knew my lavendar windows were going to need some help. The thought of getting books and painting them white came to mind, so in the morning I headed over to the dollar store to purchase 20 hard back books. I knew they would be cheaper there than going back to the thrift store. $20 later I left with 12 copies of Jose Conseco's Vindicated, and 8 copies of Paris Hilton's Your Heiress Diary. (How in the world does a classic like that end up at the dollar store?!) I had a little help from my brother in painting the books white (thanks Gar!), and they were perfect for the displays. It was just the little touch that they needed to finish off the look.

I have to say that my favorite thing about this display is the ceramic pears and apples that I scored from the kind people at the Kravet showroom. I thought they were adorable and I would definitely use them in a real interior.

So there you have it. My journey of creating 6 windows and 3 lobbies in 5 days. It was challenging and physically, mentally, and creatively exhausting, but I seriously had the time of my life. I have come to realize that very few things in this life make me as happy as I am when I am creating and implementing design. I feel extremely blessed to be able to have my passion, hobby, and love also be my profession.

I'm going to go back up the the LA Mart next week and take more professional looking photos of the windows after all the craziness of the gift show calms down, but hopefully you can get the gist for now with my spectacular iPhone photos.

I owe a special thanks to:

*God. For everything.

*Lefty & Jeff at the LA Mart for giving me this opportunity

*My sister Mikken, and her husband Jeff. I honestly don't think I would have finished on time without your help.

*Home Depot for conveniently having a 4 day sale on Glidden paint right in the middle of this project and for being so helpful in answering all of my questions about drill bits and hanging equipment.

*The slackers at Poster Revolution for not shipping my map posters out on time. I think my matte printed maps look better than glossy posters would have anyway.

*Arnold's printing. Super nice, super fast, super great prices. Go visit them for all your printing needs.

*After living at the LA Mart for 5 days straight, the showroom managers and owners eventually started to warm up to me, but there were a couple of showrooms that were incredibly friendly and helpful right from the get go:

**James from JTA: He let me have anything I wanted from his showroom, no questions asked. One of the nicest people I worked with over the coarse of the week. Go visit his showroom and buy some furniture!

**Stephen Cordrey from Wilton Cordrey. He kept me company in the lobby, gave me the white mirror last minute to finish off the look in one of the lavender windows, and took down a pendant light for me in someone else's showroom. He was a life saver and even offered me a job.

**All the people at Loft Appeal. They, too, let me have anything I wanted from their showroom. The showroom is located on the lower level of the Mart, so I've never really been down there, but I'm so glad I got to know that showroom a little bit better. They have some of the coolest product, great vintage furnishings, and really unique accessories. And if you don't see what you're looking for, just ask Rich, he'll probably know where to get it.

*Michael Levin for your insanely close proximity to the LA Mart. A major time saver. No one wants to deal with LA traffic when you're in a hurry.

*Paris Hilton for writing such a ridiculous book that it ended up at the dollar store.

*Papa Johns for delivering late night to the Mart when I was starving and didn't have time to leave. (Any large pizza, any topping, just $10 from now until the super bowl.)

*My friends down at the Salvation Army for giving in when I said, "Can I have all these for 50 bucks?".



  1. wow. NICE job Brittany. I love your interpretations.

  2. I am exhausted just reading this! Great work Britt! If anyone could pull it off, it's you! You do awesome designs!!

  3. I soooo feel your pain and love the write up so people truly understand what goes into things. Great job. My old partner and I did the same thing for her church which is the old forum - they wanted a summer series and we had to build a morrocan tent in the same time frame and we were pulling all nighters, ironing fabric in the middle of the night - while My boyfriend was engineering how we would hang it from cables. It was insane. I soooo understand and you should feel great. Isn't it a relief when it's all said and done? What people don't understand is all the stuff that goes into making it just so - especially when you can't pull things. amazing.

  4. You are incredible. Great work!!

  5. Many thanks for this interesting and very well written article. Your work is appreciable perhaps you have done a hard work on it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...