June 2, 2015

Texas Belle: MaRS Designs Houston Office for Dancie Perugini Ware Public Relations

A fifth-generation Texan, Dancie Perugini Ware is one stylish woman. She’s furthermore a passionate supporter of the arts in her native Galveston as well as in her adopted hometown, Houston, and an equally passionate entrepreneur. Since founding Dancie Perugini Ware Public Relations, which now counts Mercedes-Benz and Louis Vuitton among 40-plus clients, her addresses have moved up through Houston’s status ranks—from a tower by I.M. Pei & Partners to another one by Philip Johnson and John Burgee to the current office, in a Renaissance revival landmark from 1927. For that real-estate coup, she can thank interior designer Kelie Mayfield and architect Erick Ragni, who helped in the hunt. Principals of Mayfield and Ragni Studio, aka MaRS, the designing duo had a vision. “We thought the building had personality, that it was the right brand for her,” Mayfield begins. “Plus, it’s downtown near her art and energy clients and the Houston Chronicle.” 

After gutting the 8,600 square feet, exposing strategic sections of ceiling, stripping and repainting window frames,
and pouring a gleaming white epoxy floor, MaRS blocked out function zones to give Ware a headquarters with movement and buzz, open to all. That buzz begins right at the threshold, in fact. Stepping across it, clients immediately get the nature of her work, thanks to a strip of floor paved with ceramic tile in a pattern that looks like collaged news-papers—indicating the power of words and images. A few steps farther into reception, two more of her passions are immediately apparent. The first passion is mid-century furniture, as evidenced by the Warren Platner and Verner Panton chairs, part of an impressive collection that also includes Florence Knoll, Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Mayfield and Ragni were only too thrilled to reuse them. The second passion, Mayfield says, is “Dancie’s Chanel suits.” A rather fashionable latte-toned wool bouclé upholsters the long banquette, which tames the reception area’s tunnellike proportions. Another aid in fighting claustrophobia is the glass wall between reception and the elevator lobby, which sometimes serves as overflow space during major events. 

Smaller groups might gather just beyond reception, at the coffee bar. Its marble counter is supported by white-painted
turned-wood legs, not one identical to another, and lined with transparent acrylic stools by Philippe Starck. After a quick stop to grab an espresso, progression continues past the conference room—where Mies armchairs, reupholstered in crisp white vinyl, surround a Knoll table, its tapering cherrywood top refinished in a charcoal color—then makes a 90-degree turn into the office proper. The same armchairs populate the office area, where almost the whole staff of 20 sits at one long benching workstation. Overhead hang huge drum fixtures with shades wrapped in woven vinyl. They’re among several examples of eye-popping custom lighting that MaRS used to play with scale in areas where the ceiling had to drop to 7½ feet. (After all, mechanicals needed to go somewhere.) Next come double workstations with dividers wrapped in a maroon-and-cream houndstooth, again a reference to Ware’s style. Yep, another Chanel suit.

At the far end is her personal domain. She may believe in transparency, but she still seeks the privacy befitting her status and needs for client confidentiality. So her office is fully enclosed, but it has an unobstructed view of the action through a glass wall. Peer in to see her seated in her Eames task chair, at her Marcel Wanders desk set on polished aluminum legs. Right outside the door, equally available for Ware and her staff, is a meeting area set apart by no more than gray plaid curtains. “For maximum flexibility,” Ragni notes. In the center of the space, a Saarinen table is surrounded by Bertoia chairs sporting a pale gray wool. If you’re seated facing out, you can’t help but notice the Hermès orange wall concealing the copy room. MaRS borrowed one of her silk scarves to make sure the paint was an exact match.

Other strong colors come courtesy of the rotating selection of artwork by the blue-chip likes of Richard Tuttle and Terry Winters. It’s mostly on loan from a client, the Hiram Butler Gallery, making the office an ipso facto mini museum. Still, pride of place goes to a maquette of wooden arches. Ware commissioned them for an architectural installation during Galveston’s Mardi Gras. 


Becky Harrison: Mayfield And Ragni Studio. Kci: Mep. Archi-Arts: Woodwork. Basic Builders: General Contractor.


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