M at Mercer's assortment includes furniture and home accessories.

BUENOS AIRES, BIG APPLE: Large screens featuring baroque Caravaggio paintings might seem like an odd choice for a store that focuses mostly on modern Italian furniture, but that’s just the contrast Monica Melhem was aiming for with M at Mercer,...

BUENOS AIRES, BIG APPLE: Large screens featuring baroque Caravaggio paintings might seem like an odd choice for a store that focuses mostly on modern Italian furniture, but that’s just the contrast Monica Melhem was aiming for with M at Mercer, her first U.S. retail venture, which opened last week.

This story first appeared in the November 26, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Designer furniture is clean, and I want to show that you can very well mix it with antique looks,” said the Buenos Aires native. “You don’t have to change the whole apartment when you get a new piece.”

Located at 49 Mercer Street, the 6,000-square-foot New York store sells furniture, homeware and fashion accessories by several Italian designers, many of which were not available in the city before. The mix includes such lines as Driade, E de Padova, Sent, Perfectos Dragones, Verso, Hervé Gambs, Martha Sturdy, Zoltan and Pallucco Italia.

Melhem is no newcomer to the interior design scene — she is an architect and interior designer. Gris Dimension, Melhem’s first store, opened in Buenos Aires in 1994, selling contemporary furniture, lights, crystal and cutlery. It’s the mix that makes her interiors philosophy, she said. “I always find that stores present Italian furniture in a cold way. You can never buy the whole lifestyle. I am like a curator. I travel and whatever I like, I pick up.”

ON THE WALL: Hervé Van Der Straeten’s designs are becoming ever larger in life. First known for his jewelry, Van Der Straeten catapulted to fashion fame when he designed the famous Dior J’Adore bottle. Now he’s onto bigger things, with a new furniture line now on exhibition at his Paris gallery through March.

Called Hybrides, the collection spans 20 new pieces, including a “Dada mirror” inspired by the artistic movement and a console consisting of piled-up boards. His furniture mixes antique and modern, wood with metal and tradition with his revved-up imagination.

Van Der Straeten has already landed his first commission. His space-age stools will be featured at the new Roger Vivier boutique slated to open in Paris in December.

FINE EATING: Restaurateur Elizabeth An knew she was onto something when diners at her family’s eateries in Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Las Vegas were as enthusiastic about the furnishings and decor as they were about the food.

So An, who, with her family, owns and runs the upscale French-Vietnamese Crustacean restaurants, decided to let patrons take a bit of that Old World glamour home with them.

“I decided to embark on a home collection while on a trip to my childhood home in Vietnam,” said An. “I came to understand my heritage and its traditions and sought to incorporate my love of design with this line.”

Elements of the An Family Home Collection look as if they were plucked from the table of a Vietnamese royal mansion in 19th century Saigon: sterling silver, black lacquer and silks have been fashioned into chopsticks, dinnerware, candleholders, linens and serving pieces. Woks and edibles like bottled sauces are also part of the collection.

All handmade in Vietnam, the collection will be sold through designer showrooms across the country, as well as at gourmet food and gift stores. E-commerce sites such as gourmetfoodmall.com and anfamily.com also will carry the range. Prices run from $11.95 for one of the Secret Kitchen Sauces to $197 for two pairs of crane design chopsticks housed in a silk gift box.

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