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Crossover Decor from Business to the Home
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

The 11th annual exhibit of the American Institutes of Architects (A.I.A.) Dallas on display at NorthPark Mall was a chance to see a wealth of local, national, and international building projects by 50 Dallas architecture firms. Along with major public and business/education construction exhibits are a number of residential displays. Also on exhibit are award winning projects including First Place Design Ovation 2001 for a contract space less than 5000 square feet, given to Gresham Smith and Partners for a project completed in January 2001?American Airlines Flagship Lounge in terminal B at Logan International Airport.

The lounge is designed for intimate rooms with table lamps and luxury swivel seating as well as easy access to laptops, copiers, faxes, and beverages/snacks?home away from home. As a rule, in a commercial environment, the primary concern is usability durability, and maintenance factors, with the exception of, perhaps, the corporate head offices and boardrooms, according to Michael Moore, A.S.I.D., senior designer at Gresham Smith and Partner. Still, designers are finding materials with the appearance and flavor of being natural but with the durability of man made synthetics for use in the standard commercial environment. And some the materials and ideas developed for commercial design are finding their way into the residential home.

The most recent invention, only six months on the market, is the collaboration between La-Z-Boy and Microsoft, namely, a plugged-in ?Explorer? e-cliner. The La-Z-Boy Explorer is equipped with one arm to hold a wireless Sony keyboard for computer access to a remote TV screen and the other arm to provide a beverage holder and storage for equipment?AC/data adapter, remotes and phone line?truly a workaholic?s home of a chair.

Sisal carpeting?now on walls and flooring in the home theater?is another crossover material that has been a business product for more than twenty years.

?There?s been a great interest and resurgence in the use of natural fibers,? Moore said. ?And the whole revolution in floor covering d?cor?about four or five years?was the reemergence of sisal carpets. Sisal is a natural fiber.? The fiber comes from a henequen plant native to Mexico. And sisal carpets are really tough, yet flat and low profile. ?Downside?natural sisal carpets?if you walk on them in your bare feet?it feels like walking on pins and needles?the bristles are so spiky.? Today, many sisal-look carpets are made of synthetics and natural fibers softened during the processing. Consequently, sisal carpeting is used elegantly in the home as wall-to-wall carpeting for under area rugs and as wall coverings for sound absorption.

Lighting concepts in business have provided some of the most innovated and exciting new tends in home ambiance, according to Moore. Here, the talk is not about table or floor lamps, but recessed and tract lighting?lighting that tends to shape the mood envelope of the room. Halogen bulb wattage has been lowered from 50-75 watts down to 20 watts, making the bulb a very nice accent light. An expensive product fourteen years ago, the halogen bulb has come down considerably in price. On the other hand, specialty lighting, because it is more technically sophisticated, has climbed in costs.

The image projector (framing projector), originally designed for museums and stage use, has metal flaps (barn doors) that constrict and enlarge the beam of light to focus the lighting on the dimensions of the object being spotlighted. The more sophisticated the framing projector is, the more complicated becomes the lens mechanism. But the effect is phenomenal.

?Initially you?re not aware of the light source,? said Moore. ?So, the object or statue looks like it?s living with light.? And the framing projector can be out of sight about 10 feet away from the object.

Another lighting concept?sophisticated bricks of light used in under-countertop kitchen areas?also emerged out of the business world.

?When they started to develop the office partition, at first, the partitions were not powered,? Moore said. ?People who worked in those offices had to rely on ceiling lighting.? Then came the development of powered vertical partitions with horizontally lighted workstations-a forerunner to the florescent counter lighting in the kitchen.

?In the home, there?s very little in the way of material elements that can transplant into a very elegant traditional home,? Moore said. ?When you?re thinking of things like countertops?kitchen counter, bathroom counters?you?re typically going to find material like stone, traditional marble, and granite. But they?re not, by any means, in the commercial environment.?

Instead, commercial designers are finding materials with the appearance and feel of being natural, but with the durability of the synthetic?case in point?Corian, a product that was designed originally for the home environment, the hospitality market, and for use in public restrooms. First developed by Dupont in spring of 1966, Corian is a granite look-alike that is impervious to everything?the impacts, nicks, cuts, scratches, and stains that will permanently scar granite, slate, or other natural products. ?Only thing is Corian is more expensive than marble and significantly more expensive than granite. So, when you go into a fine home and walk into the kitchen and the countertops are Corian, you know that they spent a lot of money.?

?Glass has seen a bit of resurgence in the commercial market places,? Moore said. ?Not just the plain old ordinary clear glass?but designed glass, glass with custom wonderful color or textures or peppering. It?s one of the major materials that will make the transition from commercial to residential,? predicts Moore. ?They have been able to produce an exact facsimile in plastic?amazingly, that?s half the price. So, you?re going to see a tremendous surge in people experimenting in using the glass or plastic in the residential environment?as privacy screens or accenting.?

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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