We’re long since past the point where top-end brick-and-mortar began to embrace the drama and impact of installation art and the considered, deliberate visual language of hotels and residences in order to express their brand values and create an intimate relationship with customers through experiential offerings.
Still, the Surface Travel Awards finalists for Best Retail Space pushed those trends even further by demonstrating that character and multifunctionality are the bywords of the day and that the vocabulary of site-specific commerce still has plenty of room to grow. To see which of these shops takes home top honors, look out for announcements following the awards ceremony this October.
The Future Perfect founder David Alhadeff and architecture stalwart David Chipperfield collaborated on this two-story, life-sized diorama of the ideal Future Perfect residence in the West Village that, for all its challenging, arresting furniture and objects, remains subdued, tranquil. A dark floor provides grounding while the spare, smooth walls retreat from the objects within, giving them room to breathe in a space that retains the close proportions of its surrounding neighborhood. Perhaps most impressive is its use of narrative; a journey through it—from entry, to living room, up the statement piece zig-zagging wooden staircase, and on to the sleeping quarters—convinces visitors that The Future Perfect is as much a lifestyle brand as it is a design gallery.Thefutureperfect.com
Standard Dose, New York City
Certainly not your “standard” CBD emporium, this generous space takes up multiple floors in Manhattan’s Midtown, offering a distinctly different way in to the cannabis-infused lifestyle. SR Projects has kitted it out with matte walls in pinks and grays, carefully used tiles, and marble-looking floors, calling to mind a far away different locale (Iberia, perhaps) that suggests a relaxing escape from the city’s tumult not so different than the escape from stress its products promise. A tranquil, cell-like yoga studio is perhaps the best reminder that this is not your typical dispensary. Standarddose.com
The VERDI Showroom, Bogotá, Colombia
There is something dark and primal in this showroom for VERDI’s textile wares designed by the firm itself. A gallery or museum as much as it is a shop, a pitch-black ceiling and stark walls puts the focus on the products, while careful, almost theatrical spot lighting from above sets a somewhat subterranean feeling that’s all for the good. The centerpiece, of course, is the semi-Seussian tree, a true sculptural artwork given skin and plumage thanks to the brand’s mastery of fiber—a stunner. Verdi.com.co.
KREWE Magazine Street, New Orleans
Not every successful retail site has to be a theatrical presentation. Some, such as KREWE’s Magazine Street extension, can just be fully relaxed and intelligent distillations not only of a brand identity, but of the community it is nestled into. Designed by the eyewear company’s in-house team, this white airy space incorporates New Orleans elements and ideas—the city’s gold theme makes an appearance at the counter, the green flecked moldings suggest Spanish moss and verdigris, while the arresting shapes and appointments work to establish the city itself as a growing fashion hub. Krewe.com.
10 Corso Como, New York
The rarely restrained Italian fashion and sundries concept shop tapped artist Kris Ruhs to make a statement for its Soho location, and it comes through loud and clear. What awaits is an engaging cacophony of items, mirrored design elements, ’60s Space Age-lighting, and fantastic installations recalling Mario Garbuglia’s set design for Barbarella. In this, it is deeply Italian and truly madcap, though the seriousness of the execution here with all its retro futurist appointments is inarguably sensible. 10corsocomo.com.
The Golden Triangle Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Again, we have a retail site that is more museum than boutique, a synergetic notion given the merchandise of antique and modern folk arts and crafted works in stock. While the approach outside is truly epic, suggesting perhaps a villa, the inside is a warren of ample spaces, a walk through feels more like a stroll through a more restrained wing of Manhattan’s Met Museum thanks to indulgent architecture and materials, as well as a survey-like presentation of the products on offer. Techinphat Khachonphurithanakul’s design has rendered a space not only respectful of the objects it carries, but almost hallowed ground. Goldentriangle.co.th.
Gentle Monster Flagship Store, Shanghai
A gallery as well, but with a far different tone, Gentle Monster’s self-designed multiple environments—some of wood, some of manufactured materials, some of dirt—bring back memories of two long-gone Soho trailblazers: Deitch Projects and Moss. Massive. Seemingly living creatures straight out of Where the Wild Things Are, including fish, cyclopian bio-robots, and beasts of many stripes fill up the floor and loom over displays of the brand’s eyewear. While the alignment between what is for sale and what is seen is not always clear, the artistic statement here is daring and indelible. Gentlemonster.com.