THE LEGACY OF DESIGN RESEARCH; THE IMPACT OF THE LONG-DEFUNCT RETAILER IS STILL BEING FELT WITHIN THE HOME FURNISHINGS INDUSTRY.
Byline: Carole Nicksin
NEW YORK-In the annals of retail, a few stores stand out for capturing a particular moment and creating a lasting impact on how goods are sold. Henri Bendel Henri Bendel is an upscale women's specialty store, established in New York City in 1896. It carries women's apparel, fashion accessories, lingerie and loungewear, cosmetics and fragrances, gifts, and gourmet foods. , with its corridor of in-store boutiques, was the "It" store of the 1960s; the "nightclubby," Day-Glo atmosphere of Fiorucci made it irresistible in the late 1970s.
In the home furnishings sector, Design Research was perhaps the seminal store of the second half of the 20th century. Today, 35 years after the company folded, its impact can still be felt. Stores, particularly Crate & Barrel, have assimilated the lessons of Design Research and retooled them for the mainstream. Meanwhile, the many alumni of Design Research continue to work in a variety of capacities, spreading the slightly Bauhaus, better-living-through-design message through their own work.
Founded by architect Ben Thompson Benjamin "Ben" Thompson, born in Knottingley, Yorkshire, England on November 2, 1843. During his life he acted as a gunman, gambler, and sometimes lawman of the Old West. He was one of the most spectacular gunmen of the Old West, his skill with a pistol is considered to be among in Cambridge, Mass., in 1953, Design Research introduced Marimekko to the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. and was one of the first importers of modern Scandinavian design For the furniture store chain Scandinavian Design, see .
Scandinavian Design emerged in the 1950s in the three Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) as well as Finland as a design movement characterised by simple, uncomplicated designs, minimalism, stylisation, . Thompson grew the company into a small chain, with outposts in Hyannis Port, Mass., New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of and San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden . In 1969, he opened a flagship store in a glass building of his own design in Cambridge. Shortly thereafter, Thompson lost control of the company to an investor who opened numerous units across the country before declaring bankruptcy in the late 1970s.
"It was the first attempt to do a lifestyle store, before anyone knew that word," said Jane Thompson, who married Ben in 1969 and worked with him at Design Research and in his architectural firm An architectural firm is a company which employs one or more licensed architects and practices the profession of architecture. History
Architects (master builders) have existed since early in recorded history. The earliest recorded architects include Imhotep (c. . (Ben died in 2002 at the age of 84.) The stores carried a then-unique combination of products, including furniture, clothing and toys, with a variety of price points ranging from less than a dollar to out-of-reach. "Everything was very beautiful and sensuous, which was new, because modernism was strict and spare then," Thompson said.
Thompson describes the merchandising in terms that sound more like performance art or perhaps a 1960s happening than Retail 101. "We hung the fabrics everywhere; they were the dividers in the store. If you had a Marimekko pattern in a strong color, a green, and then if you could get someone wearing a green Marimekko dress to move around in front of the panel, well, then you had something."
"It had this electricity," recalled home furnishings designer Raymond Waites, who was once the creative vice president of the company. "You might see Jackie Kennedy or Paul Newman Noun 1. Paul Newman - United States film actor (born in 1925)
Newman, Paul Leonard Newman or Mike Nichols. It was like an entertainment cultural center. You'd meet your friends there on Saturday. There was always cider, `The Girl From Ipanema' was always playing, and there was a sofa in every department that you could lounge on."
"It was a store with a sense of mission or personality," said Julia McFarland, who worked in the Manhattan store and went on to co-found AdHoc Softwares, perhaps the first purveyor (World-Wide Web) Purveyor - A World-Wide Web server for Windows NT and Windows 95 (when available).
E-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>. of the industrial design movement. To McFarland, who now manages the Thomas O'Brien Aero store, having a mission is imperative in retail. "I think it would be hard to open a store without that kind of purpose. It would just be another store."
"Most of us who worked at DR, lived DR," said Lu Lyndon, who met her husband Maynard when she hired him to manage the Beverly Hills, Calif., Design Research store. "We lived what we were selling, this attitude about our homes. And we wanted to share that with the customers. It wasn't an exclusive club, it was `come enjoy this with us.' " The Lyndons went on to open a store called Placewares that was perhaps the first home organization store, and eventually grew the company into a seven-store chain.
Whether it was the sense of purpose they felt at Design Research or the freedom and creativity of the place, former employees seem to have had a difficult time working for other retailers. "It was hard to go from something so interesting and entrepreneurial to something that was by the book," said Susan Becher, who went to work for Bloomingdale's after six years at Design Research. Her Bloomingdale's stint lasted less than a year. Becher subsequently started her own public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most firm, specializing in home furnishings clients, which she still runs today.
"We were all comrades on the same ship. There was a feeling that we would all be successful. It was like a halfway house halfway house /half·way house/ (haf´wa hous) a residence for patients (e.g., mental patients, drug addicts, alcoholics) who do not require hospitalization but who need an intermediate degree of care until they can return to the community. for a lot of very creative people, and it emboldened us," said Joan Behnke, an alumni of the Beverly Hills store who now runs her own interior design firm.
David Wasco, who started in the San Francisco store and eventually became display director of the company, took what he learned at Design Research and applied it to movies. As production designer of all of Quentin Tarantino's films, Michael Mann's recent opus, "Collateral," and many others, Wasco credits Design Research with forming his aesthetic. "Design Research shaped my way of thinking. I've designed Wes Anderson's films, from `Bottle Rocket' to `Rushmore' to `The Royal Tenenbaums.' There's a geometric way of looking at things that we incorporate, this Bauhaus way of looking at things, and that's very much Design Research."
Wasco met another Design Research employee, Sandy Reynolds, in the Cambridge store. The two married and continue to work together on film projects.
As for the retailers that are carrying on the legacy, Crate & Barrel is the name that is mentioned most often. Ben Thompson was the U.S. distributor of Marimekko products, and early on, Gordon Segal began buying the fabrics and products for his Crate & Barrel stores. Later, when Design Research was folding, Segal bought the rights to the name.
"Gordon Segal really took it to the next level," said Julian Tomchin, former senior vice president of Bloomingdale's.
"All the models Gordon used came from Design Research," said retail consultant Joel Kaplan.
A WHO'S WHO OF DESIGN RESEARCH ALUMNI
Susan Becher Public Relations
Joan Behnke Interior Designer,
Joan Behnke & Assoc.
Victoria Borus Interior Designer,
Nancy Hemenway Owner, The Cottage
Pauline Dora Owner, Design Solutions
Lu & Maynard Lyndon
Product designers, LyndonDesign
Formerly owned Placewares stores
Julia McFarland Manager,
Thomas O'Brien's Aero store
Formerly co-owned AdHoc Softwares
Herbert Muschamp Architecture critic,
The New York Times
Astrid Vigeland Owner, Folly 101
Home furnishings designer
Sandy Reynolds-Wasco Set decorator
David Wasco Production designer
Caption(s): Above: The colorful interior of Design Research's 57th Street, New York store in the 1960s. / Left: Ben Thompson founded the store in 1953.