March 29, 2021

Rafael de Cárdenas Designs New York Showroom for Fashion Brand Ulla Johnson

An undulating sofa in blush mohair velvet, accompanied by two solid lace wood coffee tables—all custom-designed by Rafael de Cárdenas—provides seating in the showroom lounge. Windows are dressed with two styles of custom hand-woven blinds by Alexis Brown Interior Design. Photography by Pernille Loof. 

Fashion designer Ulla Johnson turned to longtime friend, Rafael de Cárdenas, when it came to designing a New York showroom that also serves as the home for her brand. “I’m always attracted to a combination of business savvy and quality work, so I was excited to work with her,” says de Cárdenas of Johnson. The light-filled space, located at 270 Lafayette Street, features earthy tones of blush, bone, and sand alongside exotic accents, some sourced from Johnson’s personal collection, such as a vintage Ingo Maurer pendant. “Part of the aim of the collaboration was to have something that felt more crisp and exacting and environmentally architectural,” de Cárdenas adds, noting that every detail throughout offers an opportunity to spotlight the brand’s line. 

With the atmosphere of an exclusive lounge, the 2,100-square-foot space features an intimate reception area, which is partially hidden by a pair of screen doors in Filipino mahogany. Hanging rails crafted from baroque Opera de Arte marble posts with satin unlacquered brass rods line the perimeter, displaying the brand’s offerings. “Integrity of materials is of utmost importance to me,” notes Johnson, who is drawn to those that exhibit a “tactile energy and a timeless sense of luxury,” such as travertine, marble, gold leaf, wood, brass, and plaster. The space reflects the vision of Johnson and the design eye of de Cárdenas, a true collaboration between the two. “The back wall has slumped gold leaf glass, and I had been looking at that material for years and never found the right project for it,” de Cárdenas recalls, pointing out that Johnson’s showroom offered the perfect application for the SICIS-made tile. As for visitors, the showroom, with its custom furnishings and unexpected accents, invites a sense of luxury. “It feels special to be there,” he adds. 

Accessories are displayed against a backdrop of Italian handmade gilt mirror tiles by SICIS and travertine stone display benches. Photography by Pernille Loof. 
Mapping the perimeter of the showroom, hanging rails are crafted from baroque Opera de Arte marble posts with satin unlacquered brass rods and honed travertine bases. Photography by Pernille Loof. 
A pair of screen doors in Filipino mahogany, produced by local woodworkers Green River Projects, divides the reception area, outfitted with vintage brass and milk glass globe Stilnovo sconces and a de Cárdenas custom sofa, from the lounge. Photography by Pernille Loof. 
The slumped gold leaf glass by SICIS enables light to reflect throughout the space. Photography by Pernille Loof. 
White oak parquet floors are laid in a herringbone pattern to mirror the varying ceiling heights. Photography by Pernille Loof. 

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