Here comes the sun
Melanie Rickey -- Interior Design, 4/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
In London, the Burberry flagship by Randall A. Ridless mixes New York swank with British eccentricity. But how to present the same quirkiness in sexy, design-obsessed Milan? "Look at what we've been doing—then push the boundaries," Burberry CEO Rose Marie Bravo told Virgile and Stone Associates director Frances Williams.
"We began by asking ourselves, 'What is Britishness now? How do we give that to Italians, who have a great tradition of their own?'" says the designer. Her solution: Take the quintessentially upper-class residential look—leather-covered furniture, oak paneling, parquet floors—and add glass, lacquer, nickel finishes, and innovative lighting, all beloved of the Milanese.
This unexpected combination governs Virgile and Stone's work at the three-level shop, 8,600 square feet carved out of a 16th-century palazzo in the heart of Milan's fashion district. Glass doors open, and transparency reigns—thanks in part to the glass balustrades of the cantilevered nickel staircase. "Clear, minimalist balustrading allows good views and demonstrates scale," explains Williams.
On the second level, 3-foot squares of Welsh slate anchor the glowing colors of Burberry's home line. Assorted glass vases and bowls stand atop golden cast-resin plinths by British design firm McCollin Bryan. Cashmere and wool throws drape nickel rails.
Farther back is the showroom for Burberry's runway collection, Prorsum, and an adjoining lounge. Here stand Virgile and Stone's daybed and armchair, both upholstered in leather, as well as the firm's bronze cubes equipped with pop-up plasma screens showing Prorsum-clad catwalk models. A niche along a sidewall is filled with stacked firewood for the nearby fireplace.
It's the top floor, however, that most emits the aura of a gallery, with artwork rotating periodically. As of opening day, Jakku Pernu had positioned his quartet of 11-foot-tall twisted willow columns among the elegantly posed mannequins in the Burberry women's collection.
Perfume, handbags, and accessories perch on white lacquered shelving slotted into a wall of sandblasted English oak. In the men's area, built-in nickel shelving displays shirts, ties, and other accessories, divided from formal wear by a glass partition.
Between the men's and women's areas stretches a 66-foot-long, parquet-floored hallway known as the "rain room." Along one side, full-height white lacquered panels slide open to reveal rows of Burberry's iconic trench coats—perhaps saving the best for last. And an overhead strip of back-projected screens shows sound-enhanced storm scenes.
"In London and Milan, we have fierce winds, drizzle, and clouds," says Williams with a laugh. She's hoping the sun will come out in Rome, where Virgile and Stone is already at work on another Burberry store. Check the weather report in September.