Museum-quality terrazzo

In Perfume Museum Art Deco Gallery

When Erik Heitman, AIA, LEED AP, took on a more personal project for the Sanfilippos, they had been his clients for some years. Though the architect specializes in sustainable commercial and industrial projects, the family commissioned Mr. Heitman to design an addition to their estate in Barrington, a horse-farming community some 40 miles northwest of Chicago.

The addition, a private museum, was to house one of the family’s several collections: a one-of-a-kind, world-renown assemblage of apothecary and perfume bottles and related vanity items. Among the 2,500 artifacts in the Perfume Passage Museum’s holdings are a 1500 BC cosmetic bottle and a perfume flask owned by Napoleon. The museum’s mission: “to illuminate the connection between perfume and the human experience.”

“The museum is highly sophisticated addition to a fantastic house,” said Heitman, of Heitman Architects in Itasca, IL. The Sanfilippos are the owners of the 100-year-old Fischer Nuts company. Their 44,000-square-foot home on 57 acres also houses one of the largest collections of musical devices globally, including the world’s second-largest Wurlitzer organ.

San Filippo

Architectural Art


The Perfume Passage Museum is itself a meticulously designed fusion of art and architecture. From the display cabinetry and lighting to the stained-glass doors and ornate windows, each element is a work of art intended to contribute to an authentic experience of time and place.

Inspired by 19th-century Paris, one gallery is modeled after distinctive apothecaries of that period, and another, the shopping arcades. The Art Deco Gallery—a reflection of the owners’ particular predilection for that period of architecture and design—was created to take visitors back to 1925 for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes of the World’s Fair in Paris.

Setting the tone in the gallery is a striking allusion to Rene Lalique’s iconic glasswork fountains, first introduced in the Exhibit Internationale. A sumptuous, period-appropriate terrazzo floor, designated by the National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association in 2020 as one of the year’s best terrazzo installations, anchors the Art Deco mood of the space.

“The design of that floor makes it very authentic as an Art Deco space,” Heitman said. “Its ability to evoke colorful and fluid shapes makes it the best material for this project to take visitors back in time.”

Heitman had a hand in the terrazzo restoration of Kansas City’s 1930s Beaux-Arts-style Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, working with architect Steven Holl. He was also involved in the historic preservation of terrazzo in numerous Chicago-area post offices.

“What I love about terrazzo as a material is its timelessness,” he said. “It’s been used in each new period of design, every architectural era. It can be used in inventive ways that reflect its time and the creativity of the architects of that time. Furthermore, terrazzo is incredibly durable, so it stands the test of time.”

The Art Deco Gallery terrazzo was installed in just three weeks, completed in time for the museum to open its doors to participants in a conference on apothecary collection.

“We were under the gun,” Heitman said. “It came together really quickly.”

The design of the space from the beginning was to be a terrazzo floor. The floor pattern’s dimensions were calculated with CAD; the field measurements were placed into a shop drawing and then transferred by hand to the floor. Radius templates were then made to guide the strip layout.

“This was a great team, a great collaborative effort, and a fun and amazing project.”

The complex design of curves is shaped in aluminum divider strips. All strips were hand-formed on the job site by the artisans of Amici Terrazzo of Elk Grove Village, IL.

The gallery design included special lighting and mechanical requirements for the conservation of sensitive materials. The 1,350-square-foot floor coordinates flawlessly with millwork and lighting.

“The possibilities are endless with terrazzo in terms of colors and aggregates, with wonderful flexibility and the ability to finely tune the texture and activity of the material,” Heitman said. “So much room to adjust and modify. It’s such a great product to work with.”

During construction, the team worked with the exhibition designer, Kevin Snell of Luci Creative, who took a lead role in selecting colors for exhibits and worked closely with the owners. Amici Terrazzo produced over a hundred samples to pinpoint the exact mixes for six colors to compose an authentic palette to evoke the Art Deco style.

Heitman Architects
Itasca, IL

Luci Creative
Lincolnwood, IL

Terrazzo Contractor
Amici Terrazzo
Elk Grove Village, IL

General Contractor
Gibson Custom Home
Lake Barrington, IL

Jeffrey Sanfilippo & Rusty Hernandez
South Barrington, IL

Resin Supplier
Terrazzo & Marble Supply Companies

Aggregate Supplier
Terrazzo & Marble Supply Companies

Divider Strip Supplier
National Metal Shapes


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