March 26, 2018
When it first opened in 1930, Chicago’s Merchandise Mart was going to be one of the biggest buildings ever built. While it didn’t quite hit the mark, this iconic structure did become the world’s largest wholesale design center and contains hundreds of showrooms. The Viking Range/Middleby Residential showroom, which opened in a high-traffic area on the first floor of the Mart, aimed to stand out in the crowd by creating a more personalized experience.
“There’s just something about Chicago that speaks to me and awakens my design senses, and this is visible in each space of the showroom,” said Jaime Laurita, creative director of the Viking Showroom. “Like Chicago, the design intent is vibrant and alive; each space is crafted to build lasting memories and invite new experiences.”
One of the trickiest parts of designing a showroom in the Mart is the entryway, since it needs to draw visitors away from the busy halls.
“With our eye-catching front window, we wanted to give a reason for people to stop by,” said Laurita, explaining that this display features neon lighting, glossy ranges and finishes from some of Chicago’s top design vendors, like Maya Romanoff and Artistic Tile. “We truly believe ‘Your Life Will Change’ when you enter our showroom, so this is the mantra splashed across the first wall you see when you walk in.”
When helping design this space, Laurita immersed himself in research to find out what consumers in the city were looking for when they visited a showroom. To do this, he visited the other showrooms in the Mart – dressed up and down – to get a sense of who was visiting showrooms and how he, as a consumer, was being treated. He also drew from his experience cooking and designing for celebrities like Madonna and Sting.
“I was constantly considering what would make these crazed celebrities have a sense of home – whether it was a memorable accent in their backstage design or one of their favorite dishes from their childhood,” he said. “The showroom embodies the same concept – everything is centered around great design that encourages people to gravitate to the kitchen.”
Seven Styles, Seven Vignettes
The result of his research is a showroom where each full kitchen vignette caters to a specific type of consumer and different price points.
“As far as the design scheme, I channeled some of my favorite Chicagoans with loud personalities – who shall remain unnamed – to bring each space to life,” explained Laurita.
The Viking 3 Series vignette is at a lower price point and is geared toward someone looking to downsize or just starting out and includes an entire kitchen – including a wine fridge – for the same price as just one of the ranges in one of the luxury series. Keeping a young person in mind, Laurita designed this space with modern white cabinetry, a simple gray-and-white backsplash and a bright red range for a fresh and energetic look.
One of Laurita’s personal favorites in the showroom, the Viking 5 Series vignette is for the up-and-coming corporate executive. The design includes more mature, deeper colors of cabinetry and open shelving for displaying wine glasses and artwork. Shown in a black finish, this series is meant to appeal to someone looking for a confident and powerful style.
For those who appreciate luxury, the Viking 7 Series vignette boasts larger, stainless steel appliances with a commercial restaurant appeal. These appliances are paired with gray finishes and a metallic backsplash for a contemporary look.
The Viking Virtuoso Series is Viking’s first optional integrated series. To highlight the creativeness behind this customizable line, the vignette has a Moroccan-style backsplash and the words “Innovation” in neon lights across the tile. The word is written in Middleby Residential, the parent company of Viking, CEO Selim Bassoul’s handwriting, honoring his work around the globe with inventive cooking products.
In the La Cornue Chateau vignette, the luxury and class behind this French series is brought out through the mirrored gold tile backsplash and the gold trim and aquamarine finish on the appliances. La Cornue’s pink vignette is also displayed in the front, with a French phrase displayed in neon as well.
Aga is another European brand known for its glamorous yet more contemporary style. This is showcased with a simpler diamond-shaped backsplash, a crystal chandelier over the island and a mix of white appliances with black cabinetry and countertops.
The last vignette is for everyone to enjoy – the outdoor kitchen from Lynx. Complete with greenery, outdoor cabinetry and a variety of grills and cooking appliances to choose from, this display brings the luxury of the showroom outside.
Anchoring these vignettes is a prominent working kitchen, where Laurita and other celebrity chefs can introduce potential clients to products. The point of this test kitchen is to start a genuine dialogue with guests and help understand their needs in a more comfortable and welcoming environment.
“We want guests to come in and feel like they are part of our family by chatting with us at the center kitchen and talking about what inspires them in the home,” said Laurita. “For me it’s all about food, mood and music and setting the right tone for every person that comes through the front door.”
Creative Director: Jaime Laurita
Photographer: John Campbell Photography (top photo) and Marcin Cymmer Photography