For the past two years, those passing through Paris’s fashionable rue de la Paix may have noticed something amiss along the street’s elegant sandstone buildings. Where Louis-François Cartier opened his namesake jeweler’s Parisian branch inside a Neoclassical-style facade clad in black and gold Portoro marble, passersby were actually looking at a simulacrum. The maison mounted a trompe-l’œil storefront while its history-laden flagship underwent a top-to-bottom makeover that honors its Parisian roots and forges an inviting atmosphere, a redesign that CEO Cyrille Vigneron describes as “a metamorphosis, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly by recomposing the same molecules in a new way.”
It’s an apt metaphor. Besides the distinctive facade, Cartier regulars won’t recognize the new boutique whatsoever. Light soars through the airy 32,000-square-foot building, which centers on a skylit atrium that mimics the courtyard of a Parisian building. Stripped of an imposing central staircase and rooms clad in dark wood panels, the intervention invites visitors to roam freely throughout the boutique’s six floors while browsing offerings in plush nooks and crannies. Vigneron enlisted 12 artisans and 40 workshops to realize the abundance of decorative elements and bespoke furnishings, including patina treatments by Atelier Pierre Bonnefille, gilded sundial motifs by Lison de Caunes, and textured glass by Jean-Daniel Gary.
Though buyers can ogle at exclusives like two Panthère watches and three limited-editions of its Tonneau, Tank Asymétrique, and Cloche timepieces, the real crown jewel sits on the top floor. There, the esteemed Parisian interior designer Laura Gonzalez envisioned “The Residence” as a stately living room, dining room, and winter garden, where VIP customers and friends of the house can congregate. Her signature harmonious layering of contrasting materials and prints is on full display thanks to Lucie Touré textiles and mosaics by Pierre Mesguich.
It’s not the first time Cartier has teamed up with Gonzalez, an ascendant force in the global interiors landscape, whose star rose after landing such prestigious local projects as the lavish nightclub Régine’s and five-star Saint James Hotel. Most recently, she reimagined the French jeweler’s mansion in New York City this summer. Like its Parisian counterpart, Cartier’s revamped New York boutique is a convivial affair that imparts the brand’s backstory through subtle winks.
Gonzalez achieved her vision of a romantic apartment by enlarging windows, whitewashing woodwork, and sprinkling sinuous seating elements throughout. “I try not to feel trapped by the history of a place but embrace it and build from it,” Gonzalez tells AD, noting how every element tells a story. The pouncing panthers emblazoned on its emerald carpet, for example, nod to Cartier’s beloved Panthère watches; a wall sculpture by Brooklyn ceramic artist Peter Lane is adorned with hovering pearl-like orbs that evoke the necklace that Pierre Cartier traded socialite Maisie Plant for the property’s deed in 1917.
After taking over Cartier nearly one century later, Vigneron signaled his intentions to change the homogenous look and feel of the brand’s retail experience for more original expressions that reflect their locales, exude a more residential ambiance, and cater to VIPs. Mission accomplished. “In some ways, [the renovated flagship] is a global trip in time and space,” Vigneron tells WWD. “It respects all the periods without being anchored in any. Timeless, or eternity, isn’t what ages well—it’s what goes out of time.”