An eyewear boutique by Toronto's TAS DesignBuild is truly a sight to be seen
Kelly Rude -- Interior Design, 4/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Astute retailer Laurent Felix isn't satisfied just selling eyeglasses. For him, anything worth doing is worth doing with panache. He opened his first Vizio boutique in midtown Toronto in 1997, selling frames by Onkel and Alain Mikli alongside contemporary photography. For his second store, Felix chose a new strip mall in the north end of Toronto to take advantage of an affluent neighborhood where the rent wasn't astronomical and a designer hallmark had not yet been established. In this second location, the merchandise mix is designer eyewear combined with other high-design objects, such as Philippe Starck's citrus juicers for Alessi and Karim Rashid's Garbo cans for Umbra.
Entertaining the friend or family member accompanying a potential customer to an eyewear dispensary is the goal of both this split retail focus and Felix's interest in sophisticated store interiors. "Ambience is as important as product," says the entrepreneur, who hired TAS DesignBuild to take responsibility for Vizio's latest incarnation. Known for the deployment of contemporary and classical architecture for high-end residences, the Toronto firm transformed his optician-as-lifestyle-operation concept into a subdued, serene oasis—a project modest in scale but not in intent.
Figuratively and literally, water is the focus at Vizio, with a cast-concrete reflecting pool creating an oasis of calm at the center of the maple floor. The pool's ultrasmooth walls, measuring 4 by 18 feet, were poured with the help of acrylic forms, and black pebbles at the bottom of the trough camouflage two submersible pumps in addition to giving an illusion of endless depth. Water cascades from a pair of glass-covered concrete desks into the pool; mahogany-veneered benches are cantilevered on its edge. A culvert, carved into the concrete subfloor, is connected to a filter and a drain, both located at the back of the space.
"The sensual quality is paramount—the acoustic as well as visual effect of the water," points out Mazyar Mortazavi, principal designer in charge at TAS DesignBuild. But the reflecting pool also plays a pragmatic role: cleverly defining traffic flow between the eyewear display on one side and the juicers, candelabras, and kettles opposite, seen so much more clearly through a newly purchased set of frames.