Originally published in Interiors & Sources

09/02/2014

Unfinished Business

Carnegie Fabrics’ new showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago features broken walls and broken conventions.

By Erika Templeton

 
  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_1.jpg

    The new Carnegie Fabrics showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_2.jpg

    From evolving mood board displays and new product showcases to flexible communal spaces ready for art installations and industry events, the new Carnegie space is like a living entity with ideas changing all the time. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_3.jpg

    The new Carnegie Fabrics showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_4.jpg

    Unfinished elements juxtapose with product samples throughout the space. “It creates a really interesting beauty and there’s something a lot more approachable about it,” said designer Tom Marquardt. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_6.jpg

    Unfinished elements juxtapose with product samples throughout the space. “It creates a really interesting beauty and there’s something a lot more approachable about it,” said designer Tom Marquardt. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_7.jpg

    Unfinished elements juxtapose with product samples throughout the space. “It creates a really interesting beauty and there’s something a lot more approachable about it,” said designer Tom Marquardt. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_8.jpg

    The new Carnegie Fabrics showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_9.jpg

    Mood boards showcase the Carnegie design team’s product development process, capturing the honest spontaneity of their day-to-day work, as well as the end result. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_11.jpg

    A peek through the large CNC-carved MDF panels spelling out “Carnegie” reveals a welcoming world unlike the typical showroom environment at the Merchandise Mart; Vitrines filled with material swatches and inspirational imagery from the product development process also showcase the transparent, collaborative ethos of Carnegie’s CREATIVE studio. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2014/0914/Article_Images/I_0914_Web_FtrCarnegie_10.jpg

    A peek through the large CNC-carved MDF panels spelling out “Carnegie” reveals a welcoming world unlike the typical showroom environment at the Merchandise Mart; Vitrines filled with material swatches and inspirational imagery from the product development process also showcase the transparent, collaborative ethos of Carnegie’s CREATIVE studio. View larger

At NeoCon 2014, guests passing through the 11th floor were surprised by a bold series of CNC-carved MDF panels spelling out “Carnegie” in large-scale peephole lettering. As they peered in closer to the brand new Carnegie Fabrics showroom, what they found was a world of deconstructed beauty unlike anything else at the Mart.

Gone were the clean lines in polished white and steel; instead, attendees milled about a meandering floor plan punctuated by rough edges and haphazardly knocked out walls. This was, of course, all by design. Bored with the Mart’s increasingly stale reverence of refinement, Carnegie, alongside designer Tom Marquardt, had revealed a wholly unexpected indictment of conventional showroom wisdom.

It was a massive leap forward from the 500-square-foot space Carnegie had occupied for two decades prior.

“I think the time was right for us to make a bigger impression at NeoCon, and when we saw this space and the windows and the daylight, we thought it was kind of the right moment,” said Cliff Goldman, president of Carnegie Fabrics. “It’s just a gut thing.”

While there was certainly potential for the concept to become cumbersome, Marquardt, principal and founder of marquardt+, showed a careful hand in the execution, and his design instinct brought logic and order to the showroom’s unique character. The winding passageways weave a deliberate footpath through the space, guiding visitors through a carefully curated tour of Carnegie’s products and—more importantly—their underlying process.

“That was kind of an underlying strategy of the whole showroom: not to expose everything all at once but to create a pathway of experience,” said Marquardt. “As people move around they see new things. There’s always something new in there for them to discover.”

In 2012, Carnegie took over a second floor of the building where they keep a showroom in Manhattan’s Flatiron district, and created the CREATIVE studio. With this new space, Carnegie has put designers at the forefront of their success.

“As we’ve built this studio, and we’ve talked about the business of design, we feel that the power of design and designers help the sale,” said Heather Bush, executive VP creative, Carnegie. “We’re not just designers; we’re also salespeople. It’s a huge asset to sell the design mind, the design capability.”

When the team brought interior designers into the NYC studio for meetings and tours, it was often a turning point in their relationships—“an ‘a-ha!’ moment,” according to Goldman, as clients realized the work of the product designers was similar to their own. “We always say if we could just bring everyone here, it’d be fabulous. When people visit, it’s not that they have a huge revelation in terms of product. The products are great, but what they’re so surprised at is the openness and personalities of the people. There is no canned studio tour here. It’s totally an interaction, and that work process itself becomes the brand.”

Bringing their entire roster of current and potential clients to New York was not a scalable solution, so when Carnegie secured the new space in the Merchandise Mart last October, they had only one question in mind: how to bottle up the design studio experience and bring it to Chicago, to present at NeoCon en masse.

“We’ve created this kind of studio persona, which I feel is really the heart of Carnegie,” said Bush. “We’re a little bit more relaxed, a little bit more casual—these are some of the things we wanted to capture and show.”

Once Carnegie had its vision set, working with Marquardt to achieve it was an obvious choice. In fact, some of the images in their original creative brief were of his past work.

It also didn’t hurt that Marquardt has decades of experience designing showrooms at the Mart for clients including Maya Romanoff, Atlas Carpet, and Okamura. But more importantly, he is a master of getting to the root of his clients’ “essence”—a term he picked up from working with brand strategist Romana Mirza for years. “She taught me that the kind of work that goes on for a brand’s development prior to anything physically coming out of it—that’s the brand essence.”

As a designer of branded environments, Marquardt believes it is his duty to help his clients identify and strengthen their own essence—to find their voice, rather than trying to apply his own.

“When you look at his portfolio of work, and what totally impressed me, is that I’ve looked at all the different companies he’s done showrooms for, and in every single instance he’s nailed it,” said Bush. “There’s not really a cookie cutter kind of design formula they’re imposing. “


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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

 


 
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