Believe it or not, Peter Marino designs three to seven Louis Vuitton shops a year, each different. “With every one, we push the innovation by 10 percent,” the Interior Design Hall of Fame member states. It’s a process—and a client—he’s had for more than two decades, completing dozens of global projects for the luxury French clothing, jewelry, and furniture brand. Some maisons, as the boutiques are called, are brand-new, such as Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul, which opened in South Korea last November. Some are renovations of existing Peter Marino Architect interiors, as is the case with Maison Louis Vuitton New Bond Street in London, the firm’s third intervention at the site. The latter demonstrates how all of Marino’s Vuittons have become increasingly gallery-esque.
Credit the evolution to a happy marriage between architect and client, specifically Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton and a prodigious art collector himself. With the reopening of the New Bond Street store, following PMA’s 15-month renovation, the impetus has hit its acme. At least so far. “There’s a psychological equation between the highest level of craft and the highest level of artwork,” Marino says. In fact, that craft-art connection is evident in LV product—think Takashi Murakami’s wildly popular multicolored monogram handbag collection from 2003.
But there’s an additional force at work here. “There’s a new paradigm for fashion boutiques,” Marino continues, “joyous, happy, cheerful, bright. We haven’t heard those descriptors in a long time.” In other words, glossy is out. Earthy is in. This shift manifests itself in the revamped 27,000-square-foot, four-story London store via subtle yet opulent materials. Slabs of French limestone on floors and walls keep the envelope neutral but warm. Myriad custom silk-and-wool rugs continue the refined taupe palette. Display shelves are clear fiberglass, their twisted form inspired by the facade of Maison Louis Vuitton Beverly Hills. Counters are mostly sculpted oak—“a change from slick, smooth veneers,” Marino notes. More oak, this time cerused, appears in the project’s pièce de résistance: a double-helix spiral stairway that wends itself from the below-grade menswear department up to level two, where womenswear is. The massive stair replaces a glitzier, LED-lit one and comes directly from Marino’s own hand. He sketched it out on tracing paper, and its “wonky, playful form means that it doesn’t intersect,” he explains.
It’s evidence of PMA’s complete overhaul of the interior, a stark contrast to what went on with the exterior. This Louis Vuitton consists of two disparate buildings: a 1930s art deco limestone structure and a late 18th–century Georgian masonry one that are adjoined on the ground floor. The Grade II–listed façades could not be touched, save for some restoration, but inside was another story entirely. “We emptied it out and rebuilt the whole thing,” recalls Marino, who’d last renovated the store in 2010. (It was 1995 when he first designed it.)
Beyond the entry and the grand stair, visitors encounter an airy volume. The PMA team cut away sections of the second floor to create a double-height void, resulting in an element akin to a vast skylight, bathing the ground floor’s accessories and leather goods and women’s clothing and shoes on two with bright, cheery light. “Uncluttered and open,” is the architect’s description, not worried in the least that he removed valuable selling floor area. That’s because his vast retail-design experience has shown that spaciousness and room to roam encourage customers to linger and spend more time—and ultimately more money. (Furthermore, the abundant space allows them to easily social distance once the economy is back in full swing.)
Now that bright and cheery had been addressed, joyous and happy were next. That’s where art comes in. An esteemed curator, Marino personally selected the project’s 43 pieces, including five commissions from 25 artists. “We made a concerted effort to include women and an international cast,” Marino says of his, Arnault, and LV chairman and CEO Michael Burke’s choices. There’s an impressive range of mediums, too. And lots of color.
At first, there appears to be a totem theme. Rising up from men’s through the spiral of the stair is a trio of Matt Gagnon’s slender multi-hued, multimedia light stacks. Then, up on two, what look like small and large boulders coated in saturated blues and reds and stacked precariously are actually Annie Morris’s foam sculptures, similar to ones at Maison Louis Vuitton Place Vendôme in Paris (also by Marino, mais oui). Sunny yellow seems to be a focus, too. It shows up in a nearly wall-size Andreas Gursky C-print in men’s, Donald Moffett’s wall panel in women’s, Chris Martin’s celestial canvas in the stairwell, then again in the jewelry salon’s embroidered portrait by Farhad Moshiri. Proving the variety of mediums and installation sizes is Sarah Crowner’s 22-foot-wide vivid acrylic and Tracey Emin’s neon in accessories, Jim Lambie’s gleeful zigzag of vinyl strips on the secondary stair’s landing, treads, and risers, and, perhaps most notably, James Turrell’s rectangular light piece, which morphs from violet and buttercup to orange and red, high up on a second-floor wall.
Furnishings inject delight, as well. A pair of multicolored-resin doors, originally created by Gaetano Pesce for a TBWA/Chiat/Day office in New York, have been repurposed for the men’s fitting room. In a women’s fitting room, the orange and gold flowers of an Andy Warhol wallpaper pattern correlate with a citrus-hued end table by Floris Wubben. Throughout, vintage pieces by the likes of Fernand Dresse and Pierre Paulin mingle with custom furniture by Marino. And since the Gen Y and Z-ers who make up a sizeable portion of the retail demographic like to mix it up, a notion Marino learned from his 29-year-old daughter Isabelle, three womblike chairs, in cornflower, lime, and rose, by Fernando and Humberto Campana hang down 10 feet from the ceiling of the newly created double-height salon. Part of Vuitton’s Objets Nomades furniture collection, they’re aptly named Cocoon.
Project Team: Tsuyoshi Ma; Maria Wilthew; Daniel Mease; Jiro Onishi; Paola Pretto; Jennifer Fitzgerald; Rosario Vadia: Peter Marino Architect. Ink Associates: Architect of Record. George Sexton Associates: Lighting Consultant. Ramboll: Structural Engineer.
Product Sources: Flavor Paper: Wallpaper.