Light bounces off sleek, shiny surfaces inside the company’s flagship showroom store, just as the Northern Italian sunlight reflects off the snowy slopes and azure lakes. It was the original vision of architect Hani Rashid of Asymptote Architecture (New York) to create a brand statement that subtly suggests the home region of the 92-year-old company, long associated with high-design tabletop and kitchenware.
Now, after a massive two-month renovation, that Italianate mountain-scape comes right up to the window. The whole front quarter of the 2000-square-foot store, which opened in 2006, had been a Joe Coffee bar, a popular respite for espresso and biscotti.
It was not an easy decision to eliminate this successful feature, but, says Paolo Cravedi, managing director of Alessi North America, the company needed more merchandising floor space for a new line of larger home accessories – such as side tables, magazine racks, coat racks and umbrella stands. So out went the coffee and in came the renovators. Remaining though, says Cravedi, was Rashid’s original vision.
The ceiling is a series of changing architectural planes, what Cravedi calls Rashid’s “visual translation of the Alpine geography.” The angular planes suggest mountaintops, and bands of neon cut across the ceiling like shafts of sunlight.
“Previously, with the coffee bar in the front of the store, much of the drama was hidden from the street,” says Cravedi. “Now passersby can see the ever-changing ceiling planes and sequence of spaces all the way to the back of the store.”
Lighting controls allow for alternating moods, and levels can be turned up to project brightly onto the SoHo sidewalks at night or dimmed for special events.
A new fixture and shelving system from Visplay Intl. (Weil am Rhein, Germany) – distinctive shapes with glossy, reflective surfaces – blends the renovated front of the store with the original concept for a more unified space. The continuing succession of display cases converge on a mirrored wall in the rear. Shapes and graphics are organic, fun and interpretive, suggesting sailboats, flowers and trees.
One of the intents of all Alessi retail spaces is to achieve the same high level of design that goes into the product, says Cravedi, and so many of the company’s collaborators also design its stores. Catalonian artist Marti Guixé designed the Paris flagship and Italian designer Alessandro Mendini created the London and Tokyo stores.
“If the same attention doesn’t go into our stores or concept shops, it will only tarnish the brand,” Cravedi says.
Retailer and Design
Alessi S.p.A., Crusinallo, Italy
SLAB Architecture PLLC, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Asymptote Architecture, Long Island City, N.Y.
Ceilings, Wallcoverings and Materials
Barrisol USA, Cleveland
Visplay Intl. GmbH, Weil am Rhein, Germany
Kahmi Kolor, New York