A Pearl of a Project
Mikimoto, Los Angeles, shows Joey Shimoda at his best
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
The intersection of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard is jewelry central. On one corner stands Tiffany & Co. On another is Bulgari. And a third corner of this Los Angeles crossroads has just become the home of Mikimoto, a name synonymous with superlative pearls. Occupying the base of the landmark Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel, this Shimoda Design Group project represents the antithesis of bling bling—and the embodiment of a pearl's understated elegance.
Once the hotel's coffee shop, then a custom clothier, the 1,800-square-foot space is only 18 feet wide. But what the project lacked in physical breadth Mikimoto made up for in stylistic latitude: Principal Joey Shimoda was freed from referring to any of the company's previous locations in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. He began by collaborating with De Leu & Associés on the store concept, a multitasking salon with both semiprivate zones and a sense of show. The result is an interior infused with a mysterious and futuristic aura.
To introduce the treasures inside, Shimoda took care to burnish the street presence of this real-estate prize. He opened up the beaux arts building's arched windows, improbably covered with drywall by the previous tenant, then designed clever window display cases. Each of these "oysters," as he calls them, is a 6-foot-tall makoré box fitted with a spun-glass oculus that hinges open for easy access.
The display issue required ingenuity inside as well. "I was afraid the space might become cluttered with little things," Shimoda says. Where could he fit 66 linear feet of display cases? How could he articulate the area into zones—from a front gallery, through two salon areas, to the VIP room and repair facility at the back?
Uncertainties dissipated when he hit upon a Japanese-inspired device, a trio of shimmering translucent panels suspended like frozen waterfalls from the 17-foot ceiling. These kakemono, or banners, are constructed of 20-by-60-inch cast-glass panels. Each is clipped to a tubular-steel framework, and the resulting 15-foot-high, 4,000-pound piece is lit from within. "It took a brave engineer," Shimoda remarks. And an enlightened client to sign off on a $200,000 bill.
He saved some dollars with a focal wall that mimics leather but is actually trompe l'oeil. Bona fide white-oak flooring is stained to a similarly deep brown, and brown carpet is patterned after a pearl's surface as seen under an electron microscope. Chocolate-stained anigre case goods feature eight drawers, at 20-inch increments, and vitrines of low-iron glass. Inside, suede-covered display forms show off classic necklaces, diamond-and-pearl bracelets, and lustrous Tahitian strands. (Bold designer pieces, meanwhile, appear suspended inside the three glass pedestals lining the long window wall, set against a diaphanous scrim of electronically operated sheers.)
Unlike at most jewelry stores, Mikimoto's display cases are lit from the front by fluorescents. "Lighting from the back casts shadows," Shimoda explains, adding that he combined incandescent and halogen sources overhead. "Incandescents bring out the warmth of the pearls. Halogen pumps them up."
When a prospective buyer is ready to try on a triple-strand choker or a pair of drop earrings, recessed cosmetic mirrors pull out from a wall to float just over the counters. And a full-length mirror at the rear of the boutique allows her to see how pearls make the woman.