Mark Pupo -- Interior Design, 11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
It's a rule of thumb in fashion retail that store design has a shelf life of seven years, max. Of course, everyday wear—not to mention the fickle style cycle—can cut that time short. The chic meter runs even faster when your neighbors are Prada, Gucci, and Cole Haan. Which is exactly what Capezio, a Toronto-area chain of mid-range women's shoe boutiques, was up against.
The original interior of Capezio, set right in the middle of the Bloor-Yorkville luxury strip, was busy, unremarkable, and crammed with merchandise. In search of a younger, savvier clientele, proprietor David Markowitz hired Burdifilek creative partner Diego Burdi and managing partner Paul Filek to create a "point of memory," Burdi says. Burdi took the petite, oddly shaped space and turned it into a futuristic sculpture that leaves sidewalk strollers agape.
Basically, he designed two envelopes: a deep-purple box and, floating inside it, a folded white form. Its crystalline shapes echo Studio Daniel Libeskind's new addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, a few blocks away, however Burdi claims to have found his inspiration elsewhere—in origami. The complex geometry of the white walls and ceiling took 12 weeks to construct, with many of those days dedicated to building an intricate frame of steel studs. A maquette guided the contractors on how to position the drywall and MDF.
Integral shelving of white-lacquered MDF angles around the room and into the front windows. Shoes on the shelves glow under diffused halogen pin lights, while rows of halogen fixtures are housed in two openings that slash through the ceiling. "To create the very purest form possible, with zero clutter, we did things like hide the air diffusers in the light troughs," Burdi says. Discreet white stereo speakers are embedded in the ceiling, too.
Some structural complications presented by the site actually aided the design in the end. For example, a bulkhead and the door to a rear storeroom are hidden by the descending sweep of the ceiling. And because a large support column stands smack in the middle of the floor, Burdi mirrored all four sides to preserve the illusion of uninterrupted space. The mirror is practical as well: Capezio didn't need to scatter small ones around for customers to view their feet.
The success of the design is best appreciated from the street at dusk, when the interior shimmers like an ultramodern art gallery. Though it's just 1,075 square feet, the eye is tricked into believing the space is more expansive. "It's possible to make a big statement without relying on layers and layers of expensive finishes," Burdi says.
Naturally, idiosyncratic interior architecture requires furnishings to match. Burdi decided against conventional seating areas ("clutter" again) and opted for a three-piece upholstered banquette with a curvy backrest, which provides a soft counterpoint to the walls' sharp corners. Upholstery and carpet share a vibrant of-the-moment purple. To freshen up the space before the seven-year itch hits, Markowitz need only change the color to the hue du jour.