NEW YORK — Anna Sui has taken the idea to heart that her work space should reflect a “home away from home,” as both her residence and her new offices were designed with the same architect, Brad Floyd.
When the designer consolidated her offices from a series of five small spaces on nonconsecutive floors to a comparable-size space on one-and-a-half floors at 250 West 39th Street here recently, she turned to Floyd to come up with some pragmatic solutions for a creative environment.
“He and I are polar opposites as far as personalities go,” Sui said. “But somehow, he gets my craziness.”
That’s an understatement. Sui’s showroom reflects the same meshing of decorative styles that are found in her stores around the world, starting with purple paint on the walls and red paint on the cement floors, then continuing with black wrought-iron furniture and mirror frames that are entangled with vines and rosettes, stained-glass windows set into French doors, dark velvet pillows and faux Tiffany-style lamps (replicated in plastic). It’s Art Nouveau meets Rococo, plus a dash of Chinoiserie.
“There’s no surface left untouched,” said Floyd, who has worked with a good contingent of the fashion community on apartments and showrooms, including those of Narciso Rodriguez, Steven Meisel, Lori Goldstein, Joe McKenna and Grace Coddington.
He also worked with Sui on her 12th Street apartment, which features similarly elaborate furnishings, including an armoire that opens up to reveal an entire walk-in wardrobe. Each of his clients represents a different aesthetic, from minimalist to highly architectural, yet he thrives by working in different environments.
“I like working with people who have a point of view,” he said. “I have to think in different ways to try their aesthetic on and see how it fits.”
For Sui’s office, he faced the additional challenge of creating a space that would reflect her energetic designs, while also accommodating the various functions of design rooms, sample making and sales. His solution was to build a series of smaller rooms on the larger of the two floors, flowing from one area to another along the route of a garment’s construction.
“In my old offices, I was constantly running up and down stairs,” Sui said. “This is so much easier now.”
In Sui’s personal office, the signature palette of purple, black and red had to be abandoned, as she required a neutral space to be able to create a collection without a competing background. Along two walls in her office, four large inspiration boards have been delineated within black stenciled borders, representing the four delivery cycles of a season. This way, Sui can put together her thoughts for a collection in an orderly manner, from inspiring images to fabric swatches to Polaroids of complete looks.
“One of the most important things in a designer’s office is the inspiration board,” she said. “This way, it doesn’t all become one big blob.”
As for Sui’s furniture, many pieces were sourced from the Chelsea flea market and at Good Old Things, a store that salvages pieces from old buildings, such as the stained-glass French doors that lead to the designer’s office. Many of the wrought-iron tables and chairs were once the decor of a “love” hotel in Pennsylvania. As Floyd said, it’s difficult to come up with one description for Sui’s eclectic taste, although when they were working on her apartment, she gave him one suggestion: “Liberace lives again.”