HOK Designs HQ that Celebrates the Senses for Shiseido Americas

The 280 gloss-painted metal pendants are arranged to form the Shiseido "S". Photography by Eric Laignel. 

Transformation is key to what Shiseido is. Founded in 1872, the Japanese corporation has evolved over the last century-plus from a local cosmetics company to a global personal-care giant. Part of that expansion includes the New York–based Shiseido Americas, which alone owns 11 makeup, fragrance, and skincare brands, Laura Mercier and Nars among them. Yet they and their employees were siloed, spread across two buildings and seven disconnected, disparate floors. So when CEO Marc Rey began the search for new headquarters, he had a seemingly simple goal: cohesion. “He requested a place of community where beauty and leadership could shine,” begins Bill Bouchey, principal and director of design and interiors at HOK, which won the bid to design the Shiseido Americas workplace.

At the Shiseido Americas headquarters, an eight-floor office in New York by HOK, a meeting area for cosmetics brand Nars features a magnetic wall display of product photography behind Charles and Ray Eames chairs. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

The chosen site encompasses 220,000 square feet and eight contiguous floors, 15 through 22, in a 32-story tower. The building was still being renovated when HOK came on board, so the firm was able to carve out a separate lobby for Shiseido, helping to signal a unified company immediately upon entry. “Executives came to us with the concept of creating ‘one Shiseido,’” HOK principal Yelena Mokritsky recalls.

Felt along the ceiling scape distinguishes an executive-floor corridor. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

The idea of transformation—the corporation’s as well as when a person uses a Shiseido product—guided HOK’s concept. “The act of putting on makeup creates a change,” Bouchey says, “a sense of some type of beauty being achieved. We were interested in representations of that: gradients, textures, references to consumer beauty products.”
Those representations come through in rounded, curved forms, color schemes similar to those in makeup palettes, and moments of surprise. Corridors are clad in black-and-white wall covering made from blown-up images of calligraphy brushstrokes, and a statement lighting installation formed from hundreds of lipstick-esque white cylinders is arranged in the outline of an S. Even subtle elements reference Shiseido. The glass walls of conference rooms gradiate in color, a la eyeshadow, for privacy, while punched metal detailing on stair and balcony railings hints at skin porosity and products.

A custom Corian and brass desk by Mash Studios greets visitors in the main reception area on a different floor. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

Another guiding principle of the project is omotenashi, a Japanese term referring to the utmost in hos­pitality. For Shiseido, it refers to being attentive to consumers and employees. HOK brought the concept to life in what’s referred to as the heart of the New York office, a double-height space that opens to a large terrace and occupies approximately half of the 19th floor, where Shiseido’s main reception is. “We tried to create an environment that felt less corporate, with more of a cafélike feel,” Mokritsky says of the multipurpose area that feels more boutique hotel than office. The sculptural white reception desk and the coffee bar (with barista) farther in are both detailed in brass. Materials such as white oak and commercial-grade velvet infuse luxury, as do residential-scale furnishings, like a confection-reminiscent side table by Mia Hamborg and a plush baby-blue ottoman by Anderssen & Voll.

HOK’s experience design group created all the graphics, including an executive-floor wall painted in the company color with omotenashi, the Japanese word for hospitality, one of Shiseido’s guiding principles. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

In fact, many pieces—dining and café tables, bar-height counters and stools, lounge chairs and sofas—there and in the second double-height, shared café space on the 21st floor allow for flexibility. The majority is lightweight seating that can be easily reconfigured to accommodate all-hands meetings or company events. But they are also places to eat lunch, work, or take a coffee break. “They’re centralized locations that enable serendipitous encounters, casual collisions, and a greater sense of connectivity than just their hub or floor,” Bouchey explains. (Some brands, by the way, occupy more than one floor, while others share a floor, but all have their own branded “knuckle,” Mokritsky notes, or hub, that includes a pantry and a meeting area.)

The double-height lounge is furnished with an Anderssen & Voll ottoman and lounge chairs by Space Copenhagen. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

For each brand, HOK designed a kit of parts that meets company-wide standardizations, but also allows for customization and flexibility. Instead of permanently plastering a wall with product images from Clé de Peau Beauté, also owned by Shiseido Americas, HOK created an adaptable display system of metal panels. Images are printed on what are essentially large magnets that slide together to form a mosaic. They can be creatively applied—Nars has a mural-size photograph of a model with strategic panels removed hiding her face—and easily changed. “We focused more on functionality, and how the spaces would be used,” Mokritsky says. “Pieces were selected based on a brand’s aesthetic.” For example, BareMinerals, which has an understated, natural-leaning color palette, features earth tones, clear pendant fixtures, and upholstered chairs, while Nars, more bold, with high-contrast cosmetics, opted for a black, white, and red scheme and glossy molded-plastic chairs by Charles and Ray Eames.

Custom pendant fixtures run above a Corian-topped table in a communal pantry. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

To avoid a sense of hierarchy, Shiseido Americas executive offices are on the lowest level, 15. Elevated details such as a felt ceiling treatment and increased oak paneling indicate that it’s the senior leadership floor. But every area was designed with the same principles in mind, to create a space “that celebrates the senses,” Bouchey says. It’s a cohesive house of beauty that represents Shiseido, and exactly what cosmetics should be: an empowering personal transformation that can be changed and adapted as you grow.

Offices for group executive heads are planned from a kit of parts plus customized pieces, like this one’s marble-topped desk and Arik Levy guest chairs. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
HOK created an artwork display system and consulted with each brand on imagery. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
Some are vintage lithograph ads dating to Shiseido’s 19th-century beginnings. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
The lounge shared by the corporation’s 11 brands features an installation of custom pendant fixtures shaped like lipstick tubes. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
An image of a calligraphy brushstroke was enlarged and digitally printed on vinyl wall covering for some cor­ridors. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
A meeting area for Bare­Minerals is set up similarly to Nars but in brand-appropriate colors and furnishings, including velvet-upholstered chairs. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
Ceiling moldings ref­erence cosmetics packaging in the 21st-floor café, also shared by all 11 brands.  Photography by Eric Laignel. 

Project Team: Tom Polucci; Anthony Spagnolo; Erika Reuter; Gregory Bassiely; Elizabeth Marr; Kallie Ingersoll; Kenneth Secco; Tiffany Espinoza; Vanessa Felix; Bobby Bouzinekis; Adam Chernick; Yoko Matsuno; Erin Ezell; Andie Moeder; Jennifer Samel; Jessica Benz; Christine Weber; Daniel Meeker; Danny Shervington; Claire Pellettiere; Patrick Schmidt: HOK. Lightbox Studios: Lighting Consultant. Severud Associates: Structural Engineer. Robert Derector Associates: Mep. Island Architectural Woodwork: Woodwork. Mcgrory Glass: Glasswork. Gardiner & Theobald: Project Management. J.T. Magen & Company: Construction Manager.

Product Sources: Herman Miller: Chairs (Nars Meeting Area, Café). Andreu World: Tables (Meeting Areas). Lukas Lighting: Cus­Tom Pendant Fixtures (Lounge). &Tradition: Small Side Table. GUBI: Coffee Tables. Stellar Works: Chairs. Muuto: Ottoman (Lounge), Sofa (Office). Mash Studios: Custom Bench Seating (Lounge), Custom Desk (Reception). Arktura: Ceiling System (Executive Hall). Living Divani: Stools (Lounge). Flos: Custom Pendant Fixtures (Pantry). Johanson: Stools. Knoll: Desk, Task Chair, Casegoods (Office). Ton: Guest Chairs. COR: Coffee Table. Halcon: Bar Tables (Lounge, Café). West Elm: Pendant Fixtures (Bareminerals Meeting Area). Shaw: Carpet Tile. Arper: Tables (Café). Throughout: Office Resources: Furniture Dealer. Corian: Dupont. Interface: Carpet Tile. Armstrong: Acoustic Ceiling Tile. Pyrok: Perforated Acoustical Ceiling System. B+N Industries: Custom Artwork Display System. Ardex: Concrete Floor Topping. Abet Laminati; Formica: Plastic Laminate. Mercury Lighting Products Co.; USAI Lighting: Lighting. Benjamin Moore & Co.; Sherwin-Williams Company; Wolf-Gordon: Paint.

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