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Byredo's New York Perfumery Takes Inspiration from 1980s Japan


BY HALLY WOLHANDLER

A Swedish perfumer makes its mark in America with a warm, clean-lined flagship.

For Ben Gorham, the owner of cult fragrance line Byredo, scent is more a sense of place than smell, so getting his brand’s second store right was a must. The perfumer, who was compelled to enter the business following a chance encounter with someone in the field after he graduated from art school in Stockholm, is known for products that evoke experiences—he says scent is “all about memory”—and for bringing craft and deliberateness to a market dominated by luxury-brand monoliths. His new flagship in New York’s Soho neighborhood is much larger than the original location, in Stockholm, with a back lounge area where customers learn about the products in detail.

Gorham took part in the design process, working closely with architect Christian Halleröd, a craftsman who mostly designs products and furniture but who also did Byredo’s first shop. “He wanted to open it within three weeks, which is kind of impossible,” Halleröd says. “It’s typical Ben—the store actually opened in three weeks.”

The Wooster Street outpost not only gives Byredo international presence, but marks a product expansion: The brand’s offerings recently extended to leather handbags and an Oliver Peoples sunglasses collaboration, and the Soho store is the first brick-and-mortar space to carry it all in one place. “I’ve always wanted to open a store in New York,” Gorham says. “I feel Byredo has a downtown spirit.” 

Halleröd and Gorham looked to 1980s Japanese interior design for inspiration, particularly the work of Shiro Kuramata, but also studied spaces by midcentury Italian architect Carlo Scarpa. “We wanted it to be sharp but also warm—ethereal yet precise and a bit hard,” Halleröd says, “like the glassiness of a perfume bottle.”

Indeed, the design is meant to be a kind of extension of the products themselves. “We chose wood for the leather goods displays; the perfumes are placed on glass or polished aluminum to create a play of reflections and gradient of transparency,” Halleröd says. Perhaps the most literal representation of this “glassiness” is a cube made of the same frosted vitreous bricks used in Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre in Paris, and some of Le Corbusier’s buildings. The box divides the store into two parts, and serves as a sometimes-workshop for the perfume-making process.

The atelier’s terrazzo stone walls contrast with the glass and polished aluminum, while Douglas fir wood beams and shelves provide needed warmth. Besides two Nakashima chairs, Halleröd designed all the furniture himself. The most eye-catching piecesare a couch and daybed with solid teak bases and Brazilian pony fur–upholstered cushions in a pattern that recalls paint splatter. “They capture a feeling of Japanese and Swedish woodwork,” Gorham says. “Luxurious,” Halleröd adds. “But in a very graphical way.” 

Gorham’s fondness for conceiving perfumes that arouse memories is unmistakable in his newest creation based on New York. The aroma? The city’s ultimate accessory: decadent, tannery-fresh leather. 

Hally Wolhandler is an assistant editor at Surface.