29 days after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Aucoin Hart Jewelers, Metairie, Louisiana, reopened their doors. Soon afterward, they committed to this expansion due to their love for and belief in New Orleans. The renovation was completed in August 2013. During the 7 years that the renovation encompassed Aucoin Hart never closed. They increased their building square footage, updated the exterior, completely reworked the support spaces and finally, renovated the retail interior. Aucoin Hart wants each customer to feel as if he or she is in one’s own or someone else’s very nice living room, except that one is surrounded by some of the world’s most coveted treasures, carefully chosen from top global brands by the astute buyers of Aucoin Hart.
The interior was a real challenge to layout. There were 3 columns in odd locations, making it difficult to achieve the flow of merchandise and the traditional New Orleans style the Aucoin Hart owners wanted to achieve. Opposite to the normal instinct to hide columns, we at GRID/3 added 3 additional columns to make the space flow easily so that customers could enjoy the focus on brand name jewelry, watches and custom made Aucoin Hart merchandise. The mouldings on the square columns were carefully detailed. Clear glass mirror was inset into some column faces. The layout created a spacious ambience. The plan laid the groundwork for a comfortable, luxurious, relaxed retail space. The addition of the Rolex designed boutique and the David Yurman shop increased the elegance of the store. That the store is welcoming rather than intimidating is a tribute to both the design and the owners.
Building on the smooth flow of the plan was the design of the coffered ceiling. The ceiling height varied enormously due to structure and pipes. There is a double objective when designing the ceiling in a jewelry store. The ceiling must enhance the brand identity of the store, in this case the residential quality, that of a nice living room. Secondly, the ceiling must be designed to position the light fixtures in the correct position over the showcases. A series of coffers were laid out, highlighted with moulding, to accomplish these goals. Since lighting is so important to highlight the merchandise, the owner insisted on testing various lighting schemes onsite, over the merchandise. A combination of 4000 Kelvin LED light fixtures with 3600 Kelvin ambient light fixtures, 90 CRI (color rendering index) achieved the merchandise presentation our client wanted while considering energy efficiency. The higher the CRI of the lamps, the richer the colours of the materials they are illuminating appear.
The design of the showcases further enhanced the residential feel of the interior. All of the Aucoin Hart casework is built out of cherry wood veneer and solid. The design is a combination of solid base cases and an Empire style case with legs. Starfire safety glass ensures that no color is contributed to the merchandise through the impurities in the glass. (Look at a sheet of glass and see that it has a turquoise / green cast. Not so Starfire, which is low iron glass). The cases are lit front and back with Fabulite 4100 K LED light rails. Pull out drawers assist the staff in both showing jewelry to customers plus making it easy to set-up and breakdown the merchandise every day.
A custom vignette display series allowed Aucoin Hart to move away from a linear presentation to a smaller individual stage setting. Special expandable platforms were designed to adjust in width to match the many different drawer widths. These allowed uniformity of presentation and maximum space utilization in the cases. Dramatic individual elements paired with lower capacity trays highlighted the premium value of the merchandise. All platforms and elements are made with magnetic bases to avoid dropping pieces during set-up and breakdown. Dramatic neck forms were used in tall vitrines to accent the height of the fixtures and to allow presentation of dramatic jewelry pieces. The fabric for the elements is Fifield Elite leatherette in Beige. Mink Charisma suede was used for on-counter items.
The hard surfaces throughout the retail showroom necessitated use of locally sourced acoustic fabrics and textures to absorb sound and to enhance the peaceful, comfortable ambience. A custom carpet from Atlas Carpet Mills, installed over underpad, helped to absorb sound. Classically detailed stained wood and lacquered woodwork emphasize the residential qualities of the space. “The remodeling has only reinforced our culture and philosophy. It is very exciting to see our grandfather’s vision still alive today” says the owner of Aucoin Hart.
Owners Tommy Aucoin, Senior
Tommy Aucoin, Junior
Planning and Interior Design GRID/3 International Inc.
Architecture VergasRome Architects
Lighting Design GRID/3 International Inc. & Eco-Lite Products
Visual Merchandising Larry Johnson Consulting
Millwork Faubion Associates
Photography Michael Palumbo Photography