Transcending Typical Design

2 Oct, 2006 By: Michelle Nicolson

Interior designer calls on 3D CAD to create an innovative retail environment -- much of which appears to float.

Philadelphia's fashionable Walnut Street is no stranger to innovative design -- and the retail spaces housed there are often no exception to that rule. When tasked with developing a new high-end retail environment that would become The Shoe Loft, interior design firm Danielé Perna Designs put its best foot forward -- and called on 3D CAD software -- to create a space that builds on the illusion that the loft is floating overhead.

The Shoe Lounge store features high-fashion designer shoe labels -- including Prada, Mui Mui, Marni and Christian Louboutin -- and showcases the work of New York artist Doze Green. Inspired by the concept that the bulky second-floor loft housing the shoe store looked to be suspended in midair, principal designer Danielé Perna wanted to create an environment of contrasts to instantly engage the consumer upon entering the retail space.

The second-story retail space for The Shoe Lounge was designed by New York-based Danielé Perna Designs.

As a result, Perna's design incorporates heavy materials in weightless applications, simultaneous cool and warm lighting, and conceptual compositions designed to look as if they could defy physics. To bring these ideas to reality, Perna's firm called on VectorWorks CAD software from Nemetschek for the design and presentation process, including 3D renderings, elevations and construction drawings.

From Hand to CAD
Danielé Perna Designs has a long history with VectorWorks. The firm began using the software in 2000 on a production design project, back when all its drafting was done by hand. A drafter used the software on his personal computer to prevent the back pain that he experienced doing hand drafting. When Perna saw the capabilities of the software, he purchased it for the firm.

Staff members who switched to VectorWorks soon found it sped up the entire drafting process. Design revisions were so much faster that, before long, the software paid for itself. Eventually, all drafting staff was required to learn VectorWorks.

Danielé Perna Designs has used VectorWorks for a variety of projects over the years -- everything from full interior space design to production design, scenography, furniture, fireplaces, rugs and accessories. One key feature that the design team appreciates is the ability to integrate with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop -- systems the staff uses frequently.

From Vision to Reality
His previous experience with VectorWorks meant that Perna could use the software to bring his complicated vision for The Shoe Lounge to life. For example, he used VectorWorks to design a sculptural wall featuring tiles by Mio, which appears to be suspended in the space. The wall has rhythm and pattern -- soft 3D curves within a sharp, right-angled frame that Perna created to pronounce the concept. He used warm back lighting and cool front lighting to enhance the illusion. A similar approach was used for polished steel display shelves that appear weightless in 7' to 12' lengths along two walls.

"In situations where complex designs were repeated, such as in the floating tile wall, VectorWorks allowed us to create one element, copy it quickly and drop it into the elevation," Perna says.

Lighting helps create the illusion that this sculptural wall and nearby shelving are floating in space.

Another architectural feature, a shoe vault that houses inventory, rests above the loft stairwell. It was designed with softly curved corners to command attention and a stepped crown molding to provide a sense of delicacy. Constructed of drywall and flexible molding, the vault was given an aluminum paint finish that makes it look as if it's actually aluminum or even polished steel.

The shoe vault incorporates a variety of attention-getting design features.

RenderWorks, a rendering application in the VectorWorks line, played a particularly important role in this project. "When lighting is such a critical part of the design, having a tool like RenderWorks is invaluable. It really gave us the opportunity to push the play between warm and cool lighting to create the impact we wanted," Perna says.

"The 3D renderings we generated helped our client visualize the design and realize the impact and marketability of various aspects," Perna adds. "We created top-notch presentations that conveyed the complexity of what, at first glance, appeared to be a simple design. Despite the complexity and although the design for this project underwent numerous revisions, we were still able to quickly and cost-effectively keep the project moving."

Perna also gives the software its due credit for helping him maintain creativity in his designs. "VectorWorks has actually had an impact on my evolutionary process as a designer," he says. "It gives me the ability to work much more quickly, which, in turn quickens my cerebral process."

About the Author: Michelle Nicolson

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