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STYLE : DESIGN : A New Open-Door Policy

March 12, 1995|Barbara Thornburg

There's a revolution brewing across the country as design centers re-evaluate how they conduct business and who their customers will be in the years ahead. The recent recession and the closing of major furniture stores (Southern California alone has lost 40% of its retail furniture base over the past decade), coupled with increasing buyer sophistication and the growing demand for "designer goods," has spurred a national trend in design center glasnost .

Andrew Wolf, new president of the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, is keeping the West Coast in step with the times. An attorney and arts advocate, he's the guiding force behind an ambitious array of innovative PDC programs, showrooms and cultural happenings meant to engender a new spirit of openness between local designers, manufacturers, showrooms and consumers. Though a few designers and showrooms remain concerned about an influx of the masses into the heretofore custom-order, wholesale-only world of designer furnishings (and still prefer customers to purchase goods through a professional designer), Wolf assures everyone: "We're not going retail; we're going public."

The atmosphere will no doubt be more user-friendly than ever before, with nearly a third of the 200-plus PDC showrooms open for browsing and some selling directly to the public. But be warned: There are no returns, and most businesses aren't equipped or staffed to offer full retail-shopping services such as individual consultation or home delivery--at least not yet. Until then, here's a sampling of showrooms and new spaces that will open to the public beginning March 20.

Concierge Service

This new service will answer visitor questions, direct shoppers to showrooms and arrange appointments with one of the 52 certified designers in the "Exclusively Yours: Designer On Call" program. A $50 one-hour consultation will include design advice (so bring your plans), a personal introduction to the PDC through the IdeaHouse and entree into design showrooms for purchasing. Group tours in Spanish, Japanese and Chinese will also be available.

IdeaHouse

This contemporary-style loft represents the home of an imaginary urban family. Decorated with furnishings, accessories and art from PDC showrooms, it's intended as a museum-laboratory where consumers can see what's possible in their own homes. Guided tours will be available, and the interiors will change yearly. A weekly lecture series will get under way in late spring.

Future Is Now!

Up-and-coming Southern California designers and artisans will display works in this "incubator" showroom. The showplaces will include traditional furnishings as well as art furniture (Goodman Charlton sofa shown below) and avant-garde lighting.

HomePlace

This space is devoted to antiques and a smorgasbord of high-end building products--everything from countertop laminates (WilsonArt shown above) and hardware to flooring and wall covering.

ContractPlace

Recently moved and expanded, this showroom will spotlight contract furnishings--that is, furnishings for commercial interiors of offices, hotels and restaurants. It's a good place to shop for the small business, home office or rooms requiring kid-proof furniture.

House Beautiful Theater

This intimate library-theater, designed by Barbara Barry of Barbara Barry Inc. in Los Angeles, will stock educational videos produced by manufacturers represented at the PDC and by House Beautiful. Tapes will cover the gamut of design topics, from slipcovers to kitchens.

Pacific Design Gifts

Featuring arts and crafts from the Craft and Folk Art Museum, this retail boutique will offer one-of-a-kind jewelry, pottery, glassware (M. Rhys Williams bowl shown below) and tabletop objects by local and national artists. A bridal registry service and jewelry repair service will also be available.

Fusion at PDC

In the private dining room of this 150-seat restaurant opening in late spring, the "Conversations at Fusion" program will offer a chance to meet with designers and architects. Designed by RAW Architecture of Los Angeles, the restaurant will feature chef Bruce Marder's "fusion" cuisine, a blend of French, Italian, Asian and American cooking.

Chris Michaels Cooking School

In late spring, chef Chris Maher (shown below with his wife, pastry chef Kelly Geddes) will offer Italian, French, Cajun and Middle Eastern classes in a state-of-the-art Snaidero kitchen. PDC kitchen showrooms will also demonstrate new equipment.

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