Big-Box Store pix
From a London town house to a Los Angeles warehouse—Paul Smith makes his West Coast debut with longtime collaborators at Barnard and Wilson
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 2/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
A 1940's warehouse in Los Angeles now contains the West Coast's first Paul Smith store by Barnard and Wilson. Signage in powder-coated steel identifies two sides of the building's painted stucco facade.
In the women's section, a French 19th-century table stands surrounded by custom brass racks, copies of Parisian models from the same era, and 18th-century paneling from Avignon, France. Flooring here—white-waxed recycled oak—contrasts with the natural oak in most of the store.
Italian 1950's seating, covered in Paul Smith's velvet, furnishes women's accessories.
An English 1880's mahogany library table, topped with Paul Smith's stamped crocodile leather, anchors the men's section, with its Burgundy limestone floor. In the corner sits an Italian vintage chair reupholstered in his printed leather.
For the section devoted to books and shoes, Smith updated a pair of French 19th-century chairs with Union Jack leather. Cabinetry and shelves combine walnut and hot-rolled steel, while the wall above mixes framed fan mail, cycling posters, watercolors, and sketches.
In menswear, studs hidden behind the plasterboard walls support the paneling, 19th-century oak boiserie from an apartment in Paris.
Across from women's accessories stands the custom cash-wrap desk, a 15-foot-long block of hot-rolled steel. Built-in walnut shelving rises behind.
A mannequin posed by the window-display unit, topped in hot-rolled steel.
A miniature table of injection-molded plastic, set among books on a full-size table in the back of the store.
The 33-foot-long, 4-foot-high window facing Melrose Avenue.
|Paul Smith has officially set his watch to Pacific Time. The self-taught fashion designer, who opened his first shop in London in 1979 and his first New York store eight years later, has been concentrating on France, Italy, and Japan ever since. Now he's devoting his attention to a high-profile corner of Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
Before Smith had even found a site, he and his longtime architects, Barnard and Wilson, envisioned what the eventual store might look like. Naturally, they all zoomed in on the local industry. "I was thinking sound stage," Smith recalls. However, the building he ultimately leased was far from movie-star glamorous. The stucco exterior of the former picture-frame warehouse was adorned with fake columns, and the 1940's interior was a maze of cut-up rooms beneath a mezzanine and a dropped ceiling. Still, the location couldn't be beat.
Nor, as the interior demolition revealed, could the bow-truss ceiling, skylights, and overall volume. "We took it down to the box," principal designer Brian Wilson says. He and Michael Barnard stripped the columns from the exterior, kept the facade almost windowless—except for one long, narrow slit along Melrose—and painted the entire surface Luis Barragán pink. The 5,000-square-foot interior is now equally dramatic: completely open, with a 20-foot ceiling. As mechanicals are concealed on the roof, the only visible wiring is the suspension cables of the dozens of fluorescent pendant fixtures. Their light supplemented by cold-cathode tubes, mounted on beams, and mercury-halide spots, on tracks, L.A.'s Paul Smith is ready for action.
The menswear and women's wear sections stand apart from the overall open plan: Each is enclosed on three sides. "The rest of the store snakes around them," Wilson explains. Devoted to suits—Smith's initial claim to fame—the men's section reads "clubby," with an English 1880's library table of mahogany, Italian vintage chairs with leather seats, and a floor of limestone that originated in France's Burgundy region, a contrast to the natural oak used in most of the store. For the walls, Barnard and Wilson installed 19th-century oak boiserie from a Paris apartment. Kitty-corner, in women's wear, the white-painted paneling is French 18th-century, from Avignon, and a French 19th-century table with cabriole legs stands at the center of the space. The floor is recycled oak boards that are 100 percent American: shipped from Pennsylvania and whitened with wax.
Outside menswear and women's wear are the appropriate accessories departments, plus anything else your heart desires—from costume jewelry and tea sets to vintage cameras and typewriters. Smith displays one-off items, such as jewelry or glassware, in retrofitted museum vitrines of bronze and mahogany, mounted on custom mahogany bases. But the attitude is anything but haute. Smith's cheeky flair for meshing old and new shows up in the shop's furniture, most of it for sale. Smith buys globally, restores locally (in London), and ships around the world. In L.A., his own trippy striped velvet covers French and Italian seating from the 1940's and '50's.
For an industrial contrast, hot-rolled steel forms the monolithic cash-wrap desk at the front, a display table outside the combined bookshop and shoe section in back, and parts of the section's cabinetry, on which countless esoteric titles stack up alongside striped socks and blue leather wing tips. One wall here is devoted to the trademark "gallery" found at many Paul Smith shops: an assortment of framed fan mail, record covers, and artwork. Set in front is a pair of French armchairs from the late 19th century. Smith reupholstered them in a pop-art Union Jack–patterned leather. You can take the man out of Britain, but you can't take the Brit out of the man.