Rafael de Cárdenas, as a designer and creative director, is everywhere and has done it all. But his latest project doesn’t fall short of the luxurious caliber to which he has become accustomed. Ulla Johnson taps Cárdenas to conjure an oasis of comfort and flair for her showroom in Manhattan.
Ulla Johnson’s brand of bohemian garments celebrates 22 years in the business. There is no better way to mark the occasion than to inaugurate a new showroom for collaborators and VIP guests to connect. She has been eager to find the perfect loft for her showroom in Manhattan. With views overlooking SoHo, the New York designer has found a mesmerizing location just before the COVID19 lockdown.
A beautiful location to represent such an exquisite brand, but the raw interiors needed an update so Ulla decided to contact the designer Rafael de Cárdenas.
“I was familiar with his residential work, and I thought this was a really interesting place for us to collaborate” – Ulla Johnson
Cárdenas is well known for commercial and residential projects. Ulla was so passionate about this collaboration due to her beliefs that it’s important to challenge ourselves, work with new people, and have different conversations. Besides that, part of what drew her to Cárdenas was how seamlessly his practice straddles commercial and residential projects.
“He’s uniquely well-positioned to know how those things can speak to each other.” – Ulla Johnson
Looking to infuse the boutique with handcrafted elements, Rafael de Cárdenas took cues and inspiration from Ulla’s brand. The already existing walls stayed creamy white, and the new ones were plastered by several techniques with different textures.
Aaron Aujla and Ben Bloomstein of Green River Project were also invited by the designer to collaborate on this project, to create perforated hand-carved mahogany screens, used to separate the reception from the rest of the showroom.
“One of the first things that Raf and I spoke about was how to bring artisans in with the fixtures, furnishings, and finishes” – Ulla Johnson
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In the accessories dedicated area, Cárdenas crafted a beautiful backdrop using glass tiles with a mirrored finish, offering the space a luxurious and clean environment, that represents Ulla’s brand perfectly.
“I gravitated towards this glass years ago and had never used it in a project before.” – Rafael de Cárdenas
Textural raffia works, Gunnar Nylund vases, and an Ingo Maurer fan pendant, also found their way into the showroom.
“It was important to me for the art to not just be on the walls but also fully integrated into space.” – Ulla Johnson
A large vessel by the Japanese craftsman that sits in a textural juxtaposition with a honed travertine table, was also added to the project since both Johnson and Cárdenas are collectors of art pieces.
Intentionally unadorned some walls of the exquisite showroom were left by the designer for the art to evolve over time.
“I never want to get something to fill a space. It has to speak to me,” – Ulla Johnson
With roots in Johnson’s ready-to-wear line, the color palette chosen by Rafael de Cárdenas has shades of blush and golden-green. This same scheme was used in the reception area sofa and a sinuous custom sofa in apricot.
Bolder features pop out by the designer using mossy green travertine and black Opera de Arte marble.
In the accessories lounge, a pair of vintage sofas are present, while in another area, Rafael de Cárdenas opted for a custom worktable is surrounded by chairs.
“We wanted to create moments for the eye to pause and a sense of moving through space.” – Ulla Johnson
“Yet it was essential that it feel almost residential, like a beautiful dressing room—always soft and residential.” – Rafael de Cárdenas
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