[Designers on Design Part IV]: For the WeChat Generation, Glam

As promised, here it is! This week's Designers on Design features Glam. If you haven't already, go check out other parts of this series here: Part I (The NestPart II (Saigon Mama) Part III (Jeans Georges)

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Glam: From Modesty to Peacocking

Michelle Garnaut, Owner, Glam

Glam is on the same floor as M on the Bund but a completely different experience. It was born out of necessity. “We didn’t talk about this,” Michelle Garnaut, owner of both, told me. “But we were forced to close for two months at the end of 2014 to put in a fire exit and re-do the lifts, and the room was just destroyed. So we had to do something to do it.” Garnaut initially started working on it herself, but when she realized it had taken her five weeks just to design the toilets, she quickly accepted an offer of help from Stephanie Clift, who worked on multiple five-star hotels during her 10 years in China. (Now with FlickMars in the US.) I spoke to both Garnaut and Clift about how the original idea — “let’s not do too much” — and how it ended up turning into a completely new venue.

On the relationship to M on the Bund:

Garnaut: Originally, we said let’s not do too much. We don’t want a function room, we want a community room. But I had to keep telling everyone, we are not building a room for the Lit Fest! [Ed's note: Garnaut and team are also the organizers and hosts of Shanghai's much lauded yearly International Literary Festival.] It had to complement to M on the Bund, because, let’s be honest, that’s what keeps us all here. I was very actively involved but Stephanie was the driver.

Clift: We looked at what M on the Bund is and went in opposite direction. Where M is traditional Western, and the atmosphere is light and fresh, we pushed (and I do mean pushed) Michelle to a dark, sexy space. We had a great view out the windows, so we designed everything to keep that view open. I took the initial queues from Michelle's attire by color and accessories. We laid out the first color palette, with peacock blue, greens from olive to chartreuse, woods, brass, silver and copper — we knew we were creating a “peacock” palette. That became our muse.

On how recycling turned into inspiration:

Clift: We provided a sketch of the floor plan to Michelle, suggesting to move the bar. She said the bar was custom-made. She did not want to be wasteful and just trash it.

Garnaut: I wanted to recycle. Everyone pays lip service to it, but recycling costs a lot more money. Recovering, tearing up the floor. It’s actually cheaper to just use brand new. It’s crazy but you know labor is as expensive as anything thing these days, and so we had pieces from Beijing that we brought down and recovered. I’d say sixty percent of the furniture is re-done. But I always hated that bar in the center.

Clift: Then we pulled the sketch away from her. We moved it back and said, could we deconstruct the bar and relocate it? Michelle picked up her phone and called her contractor. We told him where we wanted to put it and he said he’d call us right back. The short time, we received the call, confirming we could move the bar. At that point, the dynamics changed. This was the energy that allowed us to deconstruct the Crystal Room, the previous space. This was the beginning of the transformation to Glam.

On views and art:

Clift: When we found out we could deconstruct and relocate the bar, it really all fell together in my mind. Dark and sexy. Views everywhere. And I wanted anyone facing the opposite wall to have just as unique an experience – and knowing Michelle – I knew it would be her art. As we started pulling the items from Glamour she started thinking of all sorts of pieces she had been collecting that had never been framed or displayed. We were able to pull them out and find such a dynamic mix of media, color and subject.

Clift: When people who known Michelle a long time walk in they say “this is so Michelle”. That’s a huge compliment.