Client: Whole Foods Market Southern Pacific Region
Location: Newport Beach, CA, United States
Completion date: 2012
Deborah Leigh English
DL English Design
DL English Design
Michael Schmidt Studios
Whole Foods Market is the nation’s leading organic grocer, known for its commitment to local natural foods. In recent years it has begun to include hybrid spaces within its stores for “fast-casual dining” and locally-crafted beers. DL English Design developed a rotunda café for the store in Newport Beach, California, a beachside community that values healthy active lifestyles and natural habitat preservation. The shape and size of the space above the eating area suggested itself to a hanging art piece that would impart a loose relaxing feel to what was to be a neighborhood spot for locals and tourists.
The goal was to fill the overhead space with a hanging sculpture that would reflect Whole Foods’ strong sense of responsibility for the environment while also capturing the essence of the nearby locale. The protected Back Bay estuary system is an important source of local pride. DLE asked Los-Angeles-based fashion artist Michael Schmidt, whose avant-garde work with unusual materials is popular with many celebrities, to develop an organic fixture that would soften the store environment. It was decided that a large-scale knotted rope construction would perfectly capture the nautical spirit of this seaside town. The idea was to use sailors’ knots and macramé with other elements that allude to sailboats and the ocean without being too literal. Strands of hemp would recall the kelp beds off the local waters. The result reflects the elegance of the store’s high-end Fashion Island shopping center while giving a nod to the region's stunning natural setting and local history.
Because of the projected weight of the piece, the artist proposed creating three separate woven structures. Each is a hanging conglomeration of knotted, draped rope and mingled clusters of rope balls, along with Japanese antique fishing glass and intermittent light fixtures. Nestled together, each structure incorporates dangling knotted-rope 'vines' and fruit-like clusters of hanging woven-rope knots and glass balls that sparkle with caught light. The rope used was manila—a natural, rich-looking rope—mixed with hemp and sisal-like ropes for contrasting depth. The whole is very much in keeping with Whole Foods’ values of environmental sustainability.