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Shanghai's sensual bar Le Baron's design pushes for intimacy


BY ROXY KIRSHENBAUM

The cozy Shanghai outpost of Le Baron oozes sensuality on an intimate scale.

If getting around Shanghai's Le Baron feels a bit snug, that's because it is – and purposely so. The  new China outpost of the well-known nightclub was designed with the tightly squeezed qualities of a classic Parisian apartment in mind. (The club's founders French graffiti artist Andre Saraiva and Lionel Benoemoun, opened the first Le Baron in Paris in 2004; others are now in London, New York, and Tokyo.) Leendert Tange, a managing director and co-founder at the agency Storeage, which designed the Shanghai project, wanted to create such an environment by making the tables extra small and and the corridors extra tight. The reason: to force guests to touch each other as they passed by, with the hope that they might then take the dance floor.

In partnership with Saraiva, Tange turned the seventh-floor club- situated in an office building  in the city's former French concession – into a den of sensuality. When visiting the space for the first time, Saraiva took to a cocktail napkin to express his vision. On it, he drew explicit sexual objects, female genitalia, dollar signs, and eyes. "We translated [Saraiva's] pattern into an excessively all-over pattern on the carpet and wallpaper,"Tange says.

At the entrance off the elevation, leather doors with rounded corners open up to a long pink corridor. The hall leads to a series of three diamond-shaped infinity mirrors that take cues from old-time peep shows and stripper booths. "The is space has become the most popular selfie spot that exists in the club," Tange says. "Everybody is in front of there taking shots of themselves." 

Once inside, dim red bordelo-style lighting washes over the space and establishes an intimate vibe. The designer felt it was essential to implement a singular color scheme, and to leave out any special effects (such as smoke machines) to prevent distractions. Referencing not only the artist's sketches but also the playful aesthetic of the 1980's Memphis Group, the carpet and wallpaper are the space's most defining features. The carpet is fixed in deep purple, red, and black, and the velvet-flocked wallpaper is predominantly red and black, under white graffiti by Saraiva. The bar's backdrop combines pink glass and pink mirrors, forming an homage to the work of key Memphis designer Ettore Sottsass.

Rounding out the scheme – and offering a place of privacy – Storage created an oversized bathroom featuring the club's only window with a view of Shanghai. "XO" markings on the unisex bathroom doors reference Saraiva's alter ego. "When you're out there [on the dance floor] and maybe can't hold yourself anymore, there is this [restroom] specifically designed for love-making," Tange says.