Cosmic Beauty pix
Roy paints a space-age face for the Los Angeles shop of L'Oréal Paris
Deanna Kizis -- Interior Design, 4/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Buying makeup at your local drugstore can be bad for your appearance. You can't try on products, plus you have no idea what garish shade of fuchsia a pink lipstick could morph into once you leave the fluorescent-lit store. And never mind that there's never a place to set your handbag.
Lindy Roy took these frustrations into consideration when she and nine other architects entered a competition to create the first U.S. flagship for cosmetics giant L'Oréal. Roy, principal of her namesake firm and a devotee of L'Oréal Lash Out mascara, won. As a result, so has each and every customer who has patronized the sleek yet über user-friendly shop.
The 2,300-square-foot space, dubbed the Living Lab, is on the sixth floor of the Beverly Center mall. Of particular importance to L'Oréal was to create a retail space that elevates market perception. Conceptually, Roy was given little direction beyond evoking a "golden moment," says L'Oréal Paris president and general manager Carol Hamilton, for that customer who embodies their famous motto: "Because I'm worth it." Roy took the challenge literally. Directly beyond the clear-glass entry, two arced columns of champagne-colored fiberglass and aluminum form an abstract circle. "We took the 'O' from L'Oréal and used it as our motif," says Roy. "When a customer walks in, the space is transformative."
Inside, the "O" is interpreted as a futuristic shimmering halo running the length of the store's ceiling. Actually a painted fiberglass shell that conceals lighting and suspends stainless-steel mirrors, the halo helps define zones within the Living Lab's open U-shape plan.
The skincare and cosmetics tester bars stand front and center. Two 41-inch-high arc-shape lacquer structures form an open ellipse that surrounds a sphere of poured-epoxy floor in shiny lipstick red. L'Oréal products such as Wrinkle De-Crease Daily Soothing Serum are on one bar, while the company's complete line of lip glosses, lipsticks, foundations, and eye shadows occupy the other. Rows of product testers are arrayed in acrylic cases mounted on off-white Corian countertops. Keeping customers' needs in mind, Roy outfitted the area with two opposing white Corian sinks—all that product-testing makes for sticky fingers.
Beyond, the floor changes to buff-colored poured epoxy. Another freestanding bar, this one for cyber imaging, contains two computers with LCD screens. Here, a L'Oréal makeup artist 'scans a customer's photograph, then manipulates it to show the look of different hair colors and styles; the customer looks on while seated in Jeffrey Bernett's custom racy-red chair, which conveniently provides space underneath to stow a handbag.
The top of the shop's south, east, and west walls feature witty slogans in a pixilated-like design, the work of New York branding agency Base. On one wall, for the men's area, miniature product shapes form letters—which have been printed on sheets of Duraclear (a transparent adhesive) and mounted onto oversize light boxes—that spell out "Be a Man." Another wall reads "In Living Color," designating the hair-care area.
The pixilated concept carries through to product displays. Since stateside customers have never been able to buy L'Oréal products outside of general-merchandise stores such as Wal-Mart, Roy wanted to make accessible all the company's offerings, totaling some 1,000. To avoid clutter, Roy treats the merchandise as "pixels," she says; everything, including 200 hair-color samples, is arranged on backlit clear-acrylic shelving in a kind of graphic mosaic.
Along the east wall lies the Living Lab's most innovative technological treat: the TrueLight Pod. Inside the cozy elliptical room, cream-colored suede clads padded walls. A combination of halogens, fluorescents, and specialty bulbs above and flanking the mirror can be calibrated to simulate different lighting environments—a conference room, bright sun, even notable L.A. restaurant Koi—so customers can see how the makeup reacts.
"Architects today have to work with technology," says Roy, "to figure out ways to educate the customer." And to help them look fabulous.