Showroom Makeover!

Bronze faux bois chairs are by Bernhardt and covered in Kravet velvet. The rug is by Paul Smith from the Rug Company. The sofa is by Lee Collection, and covered in outdoor fabric.
Custom screens and table.

Through the looking glass . . . I live in the lofts above several Slocum Street showrooms—Peacock Alley, Ferguson and Fashion Glass & Mirror, among them—and I've been fascinated with Fashion Glass & Mirror's recent transformation from outdated to chic. Interior Designer Denise McGaha was behind the redo, and as I discovered, revamping the interiors of a glass showroom posed specific challenges.

"It was a dark space, and when you get a dark space with dark finishes and mirrors in there, the amount of glare is intense. It was a challenge—how do you show mirrors elegantly?—because it can get garish quickly," says McGaha. "My goal was not to make it obvious they were a mirror and glass showroom, but to show how mirror might be used in a custom way." The 35-year-old company, which has been in the Trinity Lofts ground floor for 5 years, had been displaying their glass and mirrors like any other showroom would display its wares, with everything in full view. But when it comes to showcasing highly reflective surfaces (such as mirror) McGhaha says it's better to understate the obvious. 

She designed a long bank of storage with drawers to hold mirror and glass samples that served multiple purposes. With the many samples organized and out of the way, "it really allows the designer to edit with a client," she adds. "A wall full of mirrors can be overwhelming." Custom lighting, created from the showroom's glass samples, are also a way of subtly showing the customer what's available, without creating visual noise.

The redesign also makes the showroom—known for decades mainly as a resource for builders— "a lot more welcoming to clients and designers, from the minute they come in," says McGaha. The black and white combo was carefully thought out, so that the showroom would not date. "What's more timeless than black and white?" she asks. "It was also the jumping off point for me. I'd kept a file of images of black and white rooms I always wanted to use in a showroom." One of her favorite elements is the high gloss black stripe painted down the center of the showroom, which draws you inside. It's repeated in the sofa stripe, but reversed—a white stripe on a black background.

Fashion Glass & Mirror will also showcase McGaha's first furniture and lighting line, due out sometime  next year, she says. And of course, it will incorporate a lot of glamorous glass and mirror, she says.

Custom made and cerused cabinetry by Justin Andrews.
The light pendants were designed to showcase the showroom's mirror designs. 
  1. A display wall made of ebonized wood (so the grain shows) holds cast glass for showers.
    The custom ottomans, in a black and white ikat fabric, act as extra seating.

Austin Artist Ysabel LeMay

Stunning Collision . . . French Canadian photographer Ysabel LeMay—who moved to Austin a year ago—produces dreamy, large-scale works of flora and fauna by combining hundreds of photographs into a single, arresting composition in a process she calls "photo-fusion". Each photo is painstakingly lighted and composed, then assembled one detail at a time into a collage so beautiful it might as well be a painting. If her work has painterly qualities, that's because she was a fine art painter for 12 years before turning to photography. 

She's under the radar in Texas—this is the first publicity she's gotten she says—but not for long. LeMay is a star on the rise—In 2011, she was chosen for the Kipton Art Rising Star program in New York, and has exhibited throughout Europe, Canada, The Netherlands, and in the U.S. in New York, Santa Fe and Palm Beach. Recently, she was picked up by prestigious Chicago art gallery Catherine Edelman and her works were shown in April at AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers).

Her work has a mysterious, dreamy quality that's utterly transfixing in such a large scale—some of her works are reproduced onto reflective surfaces such as aluminum, which give them luminosity. Her technique is proprietary, but she did reveal to me that to get some of the pure white "water" bubbles and waterfalls, she photographs spilling and splashing milk. Can you imagine how hard that is to capture, let alone make it beautiful? 

Bloomingdales in Los Angeles commissioned her to do an animated work that should be ready this fall—if you're in LA, check it out. Also, she's just completed prototypes for tables bearing her works (at the bottom, below), which she hopes to market soon. 

Her works are sold in Texas only at Smink in Dallas, which if you didn't realize, has begun to represent fine artists along with importing Italian luxury furniture lines. LeMay's works are on the walls at Smink, which is where I first discovered her. They really need to be seen to be appreciated—the level of refinement and detail is extraordinary. I have to hand it to the Smink sisters for bringing LeMay to Dallas first.

Circa 1930 by Ysabel LeMay
Metamorphos, by Ysabel LeMay
Venus, by Ysabel LeMay
Whispers, by Ysabel LeMay
Les Naturalistes, by Ysabel LeMay
The Mystics, by Ysabel LeMay
Tables, created by Ysabel LeMay
Ysabel LeMay photographing snow