The gold standard
Holt Renfrew, Toronto, takes a shine to Burdifilek's artistic touch
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 4/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
As a not-so-subtle means to align fashion with fine art, high-end retailers often adopt the museum paradigm—ascetic white walls sparsely punctuated by merchandise, suspicious staff hovering like security guards. It might look striking, but let's face it: Does sensory deprivation really spark the urge to splurge?
Not really, say the founders of Burdifilek, who offer an inviting alternative on the renovated ground floor of Toronto department store Holt Renfrew. Treating every inch of the 26,600- square-foot space as a work of art, the firm conjured up a painterly lushness that puts the product on a pedestal without neglecting the purchaser.
While redefining the nature of luxury shopping, the artful scheme deftly unifies a space that had devolved over time into a stylistic hodgepodge. "It had been through a barrage of evolutions and renovations," explains managing partner Paul Filek. "There was no common denominator, no consistency."
A more intuitive floor plan now charts a clear progression between ground-floor departments: jewelry, cosmetics, soft accessories, handbags, and menswear. Each is structured into pods that form secondary aisle space. "We established strong sight lines and made flow more comprehensible," says Filek. "The result feels larger, less compartmentalized."
A restrained materials palette unifies the interior while remaining flexible enough to vary from department to department. Floors are creamy Vermont marble. Metalwork is antiqued bronze. Lacquer plays a leading role, from walls in the men's dressing room to the handbag department's blue-striped cash-wrap desk.
Throughout, acrylic panels and resin tables are offset by the exotic woods used for millwork: rosewood portals in soft accessories, Macassar ebony paneling and Brazilian imbuia furniture in the men's area. Cerused oak, used for display cases and floor-to-ceiling paneling in jewelry and cosmetics, is hand-finished in a chalky oyster gray reminiscent of birch bark. "Everything is custom, including wood finishes," says creative partner Diego Burdi. "We tweaked and tweaked until we were happy. And we probably made enough samples to fill a 10,000-square-foot room."
The integrated, modular look also ensures that shops-in-shop dovetail with the Holt Renfrew aesthetic. "It took a lot of maneuvering to get vendors to work with the established design criteria," admits Burdi. For instance, 18 cosmetics brands now conform to fixtures of white and flesh-toned lacquer, opal glass, antiqued bronze, and pearlized leather.
Amid the uniformity, unexpected focal points create buzz. Above the gloves and scarves in soft accessories, for example, Burdifilek positioned a kinetic wall hanging crafted from colorful paper ribbons. In handbags, behind an "evening" vignette, a delicate tree hand-painted on canvas is overlaid by sandblasted milk glass. "A phenomenal backdrop can establish equilibrium between de- signer zones and the generic product," explains Burdi.
Hovering like a gilded cloud above the jewelry is a cascade of 4,500 flowers water-cut from brass plumbing mesh and weighted by gold-leafed fishing lures—the result of much trial and error. "It took such an orchestra to fabricate all the one-off elements," says Burdi.
Menswear strikes a balance between metrosexual and gentlemanly. The fumed oak of the herringbone-patterned floors complements the Macassar ebony of the millwork; low limestone platforms support shoes and accessories; hanging items are separated by acrylic partitions. The walls' lavender finish segues from a pinstripe pattern to a bar code, while lacquered walls and doors wrap the dressing room for an effect that Filek likens to a bento box.
In the adjacent lounge, a limestone mantel frames a gas-burning fireplace. Here, basking in the glow of the flames, spent shoppers can relax in leather-covered club chairs—a welcome retreat for those customers who have truly elevated shopping to an art form.