Mirror Adds Purpose to Columns

What do you do with a support column that can't be concealed within the floor plan by building it into the walls? I've often recommended that showroom designers try to work the column into their design so that it adds to the architectural design of a display. In other cases, I've suggested aligning additional columns in a row, again to make the offending column an intentional part of the design, while enhancing the architecture.

Inevitably, however, there are cases in which one or two columns simply can't be disguised or made sense of in the overall floor plan. For instance, the column may be located smack dab in the middle of the walkway. In this situation, the best thing for the entire showroom plan is just to let it stay there. Reworking the floor plan arrangement to incorporate it sacrifices a greater, more important need. While this problem is rare, it can happen.

A stunning solution
If you're a designer faced with such a dilemma, you might want to consider a remedy that I found brilliant, yet simple and cost effective. The perfect solution was realized by designers planning the SieMatic Rutt Showroom at the International Market Square in Minneapolis. For about $750, the column was made into the visual showpiece of the showroom's main central walkway.

Showroom manager and design consultant Alan F. Clark explains how this undesirable element was made an integral part of the showroom. The column support sat in the middle of the traffic pattern, between four displays at the junction of the showroom cross path. Walkway aisle clearances around the column were planned appropriately and within code at six feet. But what was done next proved to be brilliantly simple: The column's width was increased to 12" by adding 2"x4" lumber and drywall to gain a smooth, finished surface.'

After that, 1" plate glass mirror was added. Each piece on all four sides was 87" tall, beginning 3" off the floor to a total height of 90", so passers-by would not notice the break between column and mirror. The edges were trimmed with stainless steel corner protectors, creating a seamless finish at each corner.

The wall above was painted the same white as all of the ceilings and general purpose showroom walls. The base was cased in floor moulding also finished in white for protection against cleaning equipment. This added to the practicality while maintaining the beauty. The designer economized by using standard mirror materials, readily available at any glass and mirror store. The mirror experts measured and installed it flawlessly so it provided the maximum reflection.

So why is this a great solution for a tough problem? The photo shown above gives an idea why.

  • The column "vanishes" by blending with the interior, without losing the required support.
  • It creatively shows all of the other displays within the showroom from various views.
  • Standing at the front entry, it gives a security viewpoint for the front of the showroom to the back or sides.'
  • The mirrored column now reflects light better, using professional lighting to complement the light-colored interior walls.

A new reflection'
There are many ways of utilizing the mirrored column as a design concept. For instance, what if you don't want to show off an area surrounding the column? You can still use the concept, but with a twist. On the side of the column that faces the area you want to downplay, install two pieces of mirror, butted against each other.'

This technique diffuses the unwanted view by providing a similar reflective value without a direct view of the less attractive display. To enhance the reflective effect, bevel all of the edges of the mirrors. This creates more light bounce possibilities, and varies the mirrors' reflective qualities, visually masking the surrounding areas.

Ideally, it's best to use mirrors to create another view of something you don't want your customers to miss. That's why Alan Clark's design works so well. Many thanks to Alan and his associates at SieMatic Minneapolis for sharing this excellent idea that many other showroom designers can appreciate for its composition and practicality.'

The possibilities for mirrors are endless. Aside from the column application, you might want to explore other ways in which mirrors can help to expand and enhance your display space. In experimenting, you could discover an application that can be used to make your showroom truly unique.