Against the Grain

A glowing wood-grained light box displaying three enlarged family snapshots greets customers at Valley, a women’s boutique and spa that opened last October in New York’s trendy Lower East Side. It’s the most striking element of the rustic aesthetic—reminiscent of a childhood in the San Fernando Valley—that co-owners and sisters Nina and Julia Werman wanted for their new store. With a large space and a small budget, they turned to Ben Pell of Brooklyn-based architecture and research firm Pell Overton.

Working with Todd Fenton and Marc Newman, Pell obliged by focusing his attentions on finishes and surfaces—such as cork flooring and boldly patterned wallpaper—and custom-made installations. “The goal was to use digital-fabrication technology to augment off-the-shelf materials and produce custom effects,” he says. For the homespun light box, Pell used a CNC laser to cut out pieces of opaque acrylic, assembling them behind the veneer surface to re-create the siblings’ family images. When backlit by fluorescent lights, a glimpse into the Valley girls’ history appears in the wood grain.

To see a previous project by Pell which utilizes digital fabrication technologies, read Wearing Your Wallpaper to Work .

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