Rain or Shine
Whatever the weather, nature pervades Christophe Pillet's New York boutique for Catherine Malandrino
Claudia Steinberg -- Interior Design, 4/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
When womenswear and accessories designer Catherine Malandrino stepped into a century-old abandoned warehouse in New York's ultrahip Meatpacking District, she immediately had a vision. Where other eyes would have seen piles of dust, Malandrino saw freshly turned earth. And that rust on the cast-iron columns? To her, it looked like moss.
Malandrino has an imagination that can wander freely from Oscar Niemeyer's utopian architecture to John James Audubon's exquisite plumage and Julian Schnabel's expressionistic paintings in the course of a single conversation. So, it's no surprise that her concept for a new Catherine Malandrino boutique quickly grew to embrace a magical landscape of winding paths, gentle hills, and even summer rain. To make sure that wonderland would also come off as a sophisticated urban shopping experience, she called in Agence Christophe Pillet, the namesake firm of a longtime friend.
Design-savvy customers are supposed to recognize Malandrino's "rain shower" in a chandelier with 860 gleaming Murano glass droplets dangling from the gray-painted industrial ceiling. Underneath, a cream-colored resin pedestal table with a perfectly round top reflects the cascade. A chair made from twisted branches substitutes for underbrush. The sloping marble floor stands in for hilly terrain. (No word on a metaphorical identity of slate tiles lining the perimeter.)
To make these fanciful elements site-specific—not the building blocks of a "concept shop that could be replicated in Tokyo or Miami," Pillet says—full-height glazing wraps two of the exterior walls, letting in the neighborhood. Pillet also retained the 2,360-square-foot space's exposed brick walls, cast-iron columns, and ceiling ductwork.
He knew that Malandrino would love the contrasts. In her fashion collections, canvas, leather, and heavy-gauge knits often break up goddess 'silhouettes in soft silk. Her colors can be deliberately at odds, too: pink with red or green with mustard. "I like things a little accidental," she says.
At the store, her taste for the heterogeneous is expressed, for example, as a nubby wool rug set on the glossy marble of the floor. And the stainless-steel bases and clear acrylic drawers of Pillet's display towers—Malandrino notes their "masculine cut"—offset the C-shape sweep of a banquette covered in lemon-yellow leather.
Reflective surfaces, everywhere, reach their greatest complexity with the thousands of amber-tinted mirrors that shingle a focal wall undulating 26 feet through the seductive space. "All the reflected images come at you unexpectedly," Malandrino says. Perhaps you'll catch a few frames of The Party, one of the inspirational movies that play continually on a flat-screen TV. Or maybe you'll spy a fellow shopper sipping a glass of champagne. Could that really be Halle Berry or Sarah Jessica Parker?