When JGA, Inc. of Southfield, MI, was commissioned to design the new prototype of the Ross-Simons retail location in Durham, NC, they wanted the store to look casual, yet sophisticated. The 5,745-square-foot prototype derives its inspiration from mid-century modern design that is particularly suited to Ross-Simons' 50 years of company heritage, according to JGA, Inc. The store's design was set to be approachable, warm and contemporary, with its lines and materials exhibiting a balance between luxury and affordability.

The materials the company chose for the jewelry department of the store -- in order to evoke the desired effect -- include a black-and-white pattern of granite and marble on the floor, with aqua tile and mahogany blocks as well as glowing light elements.

"Looking at the overall palette, a decision to create a strong degree of contrast while maintaining a degree of neutrality made the classic combination of black and white appropriate," said Kenneth Nisch, AIA, chairman of JGA, Inc. "Pure black and white, however, could have come across as a bit harsh and lack the added sense of style that was being communicated throughout other areas of the environment. The use of the black and white underlay, with highlights of metallics and mica, added just the right amount of sparkle and shimmer to this classic combination."

For the flooring, Catco Marble & Granite of Port Reading, NJ, supplied 1,200 square feet of Snow White marble from Greece as well as 1,200 square feet of Italian Black Deluxe granite. "The stones were both polished 12- x 12-inch tiles," said Sammy Tawil of Catco Marble & Granite. "Time was of the essence for this project, so we moved up production to honor the architects' request. We are often used by department stores because we ship out of stock in our warehouse. We have a physical stock in the states, which is an extra luxury for designers."

Additionally, 240 square feet of St. Molina limestone from Portugal was selected for the exterior of the store. "The St. Molina limestone was cut-to-size in 18- x 18-inch tiles and brought in from overseas," said Tawil. "We shipped out the granite and marble within one week; for the limestone, we shipped it within five weeks."

Though granite and marble were the only stones used for the interior of the design, other materials were brought in to complement them. "While specifically no other natural stone was used on the project, other stone-like materials -- such as handmade glass tiles and specialty plaster finishes -- became natural extensions of the permanence of stone, but with a range of palette and finish that may not have been necessarily available if purely limiting the choice to stone," said Nisch. "However the stone became a strong anchoring element, making all the other choices and variations accents rather than as a core part of the concept."

Construction started in early December 2001 and ended when the mall opened on March 8, 2002. The flooring was installed in February 2002 by Southern Flooring dba of Rich-lands, NC, under general contractor, Westwood Contractors of Durham, NC. "The floor was installed using thin-set," said Robert Janni of Westwood Contractors. "For the exterior walls, we used a standard adhesive, and a quick-set mortar."

Getting all of the tiles to lie smooth and flat where they transitioned from one to another became a challenge during the flooring installation. "The installer used the standard means of leveling," said Janni. "After every two to three tiles placed on the floor, he would put the leveler down. It became difficult because half of the tile installed had to be modified to fit the required dimensions of the architect. Some tiles were cut to 6-inch pieces, others to 8-inch pieces, so the installer had to pay attention to the patterns while keeping it level."

The installation of the floor took five workers about four days of work -- two days of setting and two days of grouting and cleaning. The exterior took about two days. "The biggest part of the exterior was mitering and buffing the edges and corners," said Janni.

Since completion, the reaction to the project has been very positive. "From recognition of peers through the project's receipt of two prestigious design awards -- and from the developer to the customer -- the concept has been well received and will act as a template for future retail expansion," said Nisch. "With the unique product mix of gifts, tabletop and jewelry already establishing

a unique consumer purchasing experience, the store environment has further enhanced that differentiation and successfully attracted all three buying groups."