By Arianne Nardo
An architectural reckoning can be found amid the excitement of design planning, furnishing and stylish decision-making. Plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems—essentials that are the victims of our reluctant attention—the “builder” category is self-reflexive enough to know that this is not the sexy stuff. But that demure acknowledgement slipped further away this week following the debut of the Pella Crafted Luxury showroom, featuring a very cool selection of windows and doors on the LuxeHome floor of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.
While it is a showcase for the necessities, the new retail space presents a fetching revise to the daily business of opening and closing, entering and exiting, particularly for the trade. “We wanted to give a gift to the design and architectural community and be able to support them and their visions,” says Heidi Farmer, PR manager for the company.
Pella Corporation commissioned Chicago-based architects Stuart Cohen & Julie Hacker to create the 7,000-square-foot gallery, which unfolds from modern to contemporary, traditional to historic. The complete concept, composed of six room vignettes fashioned by Chicago design studios Handman Associates, Stephanie Wohlner Design and Morgante Wilson, is beautifully executed and highly immersive even for veterans of the showroom circuit.
A visit to Pella Luxury Crafted proves revealing, the aesthetic equivalent of a Rorschach test with results that coax you gently to latent decorative desires: handmade Gothic-inspired oak entry doors like the stately ones in Stephanie Wohlner’s chic vignette.
Across the showroom, two contemporary open-concept living areas by designer Shelly Handman bear the same potent, look-at-that impact. “I love nature, and when we have the ability to bring it in, we do that,” he says, gesturing to a stacked floor-to-ceiling window configuration that could pass as an art installation, with oversize, undivided glass windows that slide and pivot. “These windows show how to be sculptural, playful and architectural."
In a nod to midcentury master Avar Aalto, Handman selected red to punctuate his second modern setting, a furnished living room outfitted with two sleek rouge glass-and-wood units—one desk and one bench—that serve as room dividers. They are the kind of clever design elements that broaden material possibilities with the added benefit of seriously outdoing the neighbors.
If these impressions seem uncharacteristic for a showroom, it is because Pella has worked hard to provide the sizzle. As Annette Bravard, Pella’s vice president of sales and marketing, remarked at the editorial preview, the company wants the design-minded to “think differently about windows and doors.” Undoubtedly, this new showroom speaks directly to the luxury market and is the first of its kind for Pella, whose declaration of “custom-made” resonates. Designers, architects and retail clients are presented with a real-life catalog for a custom universe of materials, wood species, special finishes, paint and hardware, and options for automation.
The timing is ideal for a project of this magnitude; last May, Pella acquired Grabill Windows & Doors, a Michigan-based maker with a dedicated workshop of 40 artisans. The union of both family-run companies blends 100 years of experience in quality and craftsmanship, says Bravard.