Fashion Statement

A suspended wall jazzes up a women's store in couture-conscious Omaha.
August 11, 2010

Fashion and architecture mingle seamlessly in stylish locales like New York, Paris, Milan, and, of course, Omaha, Neb.

At least that's what Ann Sedlacek and Lori Jorgenson wanted to prove when they opened their boutique Modele two years ago in an upscale mall called Village Pointe. The proprietors based their business on the premise that the women of Omaha want the latest clothing designs as much as fashionista femmes anywhere in the world.

A steel and plywood framing system holds up the walls and ceiling at Modele, a women's clothing boutique in Omaha, Neb. The wall system helps break up the merchandise, organize the store, and also give it a high fashion look. All images by Randy Brown Architects

So they brought in local architect Randy Brown, AIA, to give them a design for their bôite that reflected an haute couture aesthetic—within reason.

Brown suggested a clean, sleek interior, with a suspended wall system that performs two functions at once: It separates featured clothing lines in the 1,350-sf room, while also emulating the look of a Fashion Avenue runway.

It took a while for the owners to grasp Brown's vision for the space, but once they did, they were blown away by the potential of what the wall and ceiling system could do for their store.

“He convinced us that it would be better for the [architectural] design to be simple, and to let the clothes stand out,” Sedlacek said. “The store has some standout features, but it's basically simple and white.”

Brown's design also saved money on building materials by leaving concrete floors and exposed ceilings as design elements.

These models show how the ceiling and walls are suspended and connected to the outside space only by the front wall, which becomes the ceiling and stretches the length of the space. The suspended side walls also hang off the ceiling and become a waterfall at the end of the space.

A light teal plane begins as a wall at the otherwise all-glass storefront, turns to become a partial ceiling for the narrow space, and then turns again to become the backdrop of a waterfall behind a light teal cashwrap. “It's basically one continuous form that ends at the cashwrap,” said Brown.

The drywall beams of the outside walls separate the featured merchandise at Modele and create a stark, white contrast to the concrete floor and the teal and exposed ceiling. With no tables and display racks to get in the way, the space has more of the look of an art museum than the typical clothing store.

The lighted back wall at Modele and the teal counter are two of the only elements that contrast from the spare, white environment.  

The owners were particularly pleased that the design set Modele apart from other shops in Village Pointe, notably Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. “When I shop, I don't want to go a lot of places that look like everywhere else,” Sedlacek said. “The dividers really make the merchandise pop.”

To fashion that look, Brown employed a system of plywood and steel framing to support the walls, which were connected by a series of steel studs and steel frame supports to the side and back walls of the building space. The ceiling also was connected by steel studs. As a result, the walls appear to be floating, never touching the ceiling or floor.

“It was imperative that we hide all the connections,” Brown said. “It accomplishes the goal of making a sleek, fashionable space with that wow factor.”