Sparkle and Stardust pix
Patrick Jouin's fancy takes flight at the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique in Paris
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 4/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
For the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique in Paris, Patrick Jouin adapted a chandelier he'd designed for Mix restaurant in Las Vegas. Both fixtures comprise hundreds of handblown Murano glass orbs, strung on stainless-steel cables.
Fairies perch on a wall's carved roses, gilded with 11-karat white gold.
The butterfly has a wingspan of 4 inches; the fairy's is 9 inches.
To view jewelry on leather-covered desktops fitted with halogen lamps, clients sit in custom chairs that combine thermoformed polycarbonate sides with silk upholstery.
Since 1906, the boutique has occupied this 18th-century building.
The chandelier cascades from the boutique's upper level, where ceiling-mounted mirrors intensify the light and direct it at different angles.
Jouin's assistant served as the model for the resin mannequins.
A fairy rests on the nickel-plated frame of a vitrine.
The frame measures 6 by 7 feet.
Punctuating the ceiling, stretched vinyl diffuses light from neon tubes.
The VIP salon's display columns are painted wood and acrylic.
Once a team of four hand-carved the oak paneling, it was treated with a potassium solution to remove tannins, then brushed, stained, and finally waxed.
The custom carpet is hand-tufted wool.
Corian tops the custom lacquered tables.
Jouin designed the custom display cases in polycarbonate and nickel plate.
"I'm not a specialist when it comes to stores," Patrick Jouin admits. "This is only the second one I've done. And the first was a bakery!"
We're sitting in the VIP salon at the Paris boutique of Van Cleef & Arpels, which has just received a complete overhaul by Jouin's firm. Since 1906, the jeweler has been situated in this majestic 18th-century mansion on the equally majestic Place Vendôme. In the 1960's, Maria Callas popped by to try on a white and cognac-yellow diamond necklace. Other famous clients of the venerable house have included Prince Rainier of Monaco, who offered his bride, Grace Kelly, a pearl-and-diamond necklace with matching earrings, and the last Empress of Iran, Farah Pahlavi, who wore a Van Cleef tiara to her coronation.
While the history of the house is rather august, the boutique had started to look a little worse for wear. Furthermore, the space didn't flow well. Customers were met immediately by a staircase, then were forced to navigate an array of nooks and salons.
Jouin's first task was to change that. He opened up 2,500-square-foot space to create a main salon with a VIP room off to one side. Another salon, which can serve as a dining room, is on the second floor. As for the staircase, it's been moved and hidden behind the wonderfully curvaceous walls of a double-height rotunda.
Cascading through its center, a chandelier of handblown Murano glass balls "draws you in and helps you find your bearings," Jouin declares. Based on an installation he devised for the Mix restaurant-lounge in Las Vegas, the fixture is also an emblem of his distinctive style. Van Cleef CEO Stanislas de Quercize "insisted on having one signature piece from me," the designer explains.
In addition, the boutique would in some way have to connect to what he calls the "luxury, tradition, and rigor" of the Place Vendôme's architecture, which has long played an important part in the Van Cleef aesthetic. Since the 1930's, the bronze victory column in the middle of the square has been the centerpiece of the house's logo. The column has also appeared on items ranging from a 1950 gold cigarette lighter to a charm bracelet for the Duchess of Windsor.
If any of those charms had magically grown to 2 to 4 inches tall, it might resemble one of the butterflies and dragonflies hand-carved, alongside branches and blossoms, into the new oak boiserie of the boutique. Elements from the natural world are omnipresent. "There's a great sense of fantasy and romanticism to jewelry by Van Cleef," Jouin asserts. "Here, customers can be immersed completely in that world."
To that end, he wound a garland of branches, flowers, and insects along the curved back wall and decorated the chandelier rotunda with gilded roses, a motif that evokes one of the high points of Van Cleef history: the art deco era. Butterflies are carved into the wool carpet, which changes from a light sand color at the center of the salons to a much deeper brown as the floor meets the wall. Mannequins sporting fairy wings repose in huge vitrines.
Another ingredient of the Van Cleef magic is the notion of craftsmanship. "Everything had to be up to the same standard as their workshops," Jouin says. Thus, the oak boiserie is lovingly carved, the gold leaf 11-karat, the carpet hand-tufted.
So much for tradition. Star Trek–like display columns contain bracelets and earrings, and the ceiling is punctuated by amorphous white shapes of backlit fabric. "You can't actually see the light source," Jouin notes. "The jewels should be the brightest things in the boutique."
To showcase them further, he employed a number of complementary techniques. Desks are fitted with halogen lamps that operate with the touch of a hidden button, so light floods onto a gem during a sales pitch. The palette, meanwhile, is neutral. "The only shot of color should come from the jewels," he says.
Jouin used a variety of display cases to avoid mind-numbing repetition. "If things become too systematic, you switch off and stop looking at the product," he explains. That's a risk heightened by the multitude of other jewelers on and around the Place Vendôme, which is why he took such pains to make the Van Cleef boutique stand out.
"Most jewelry stores look like banks. Their focus seems to be on how much money the gems cost," he says. "Jewelry should be about pleasure." And feeling like a fairy princess.