When French luxury retailer Christian Dior opened the doors to its 57th Street flagship in New York in the 1990s, it was a gem with its backpainted glass, flat ceilings, and glass and stainless-steel staircase. But over time it had lost its luster, receiving only minor cosmetic upgrades. And those decades-old design details no longer represented the modern face of the Dior brand.
“Luxury retailing in the 1990s didn’t have the opulence that it now does,” says Greg Skalaski, projectexecutive for Shawmut Design and Construction (Boston), the general contractor on the project.
Drawing on the talents of design firm Peter Marino Architect (New York) and architecture firm Barteluce Architects & Associates (New York), Dior’s design team, led by project manager Athena Paspala, set out to refresh the women’s side of the two-story, 5700-square-foot luxury boutique, which also houses a men’s store. But what started as a minor renovation quickly grew into a full-scale demo job. Once Dior’s newest concept opened in Shanghai, the retailer decided that the New York location needed to be equal if not better than its China counterpart. “They started with just a facelift,” says Skalaski, “but you can’t just replace a portion and represent the new brand image.”
What’s on display now is a new definition of luxury, says Skalaski, with such touches as combed plaster walls, commissioned works of art and stone flooring. “It’s a different feeling,” he says.
Dior tapped into its history and pulled details from its Paris flagship to inspire the design for New York. For example, the wrought-iron handrail pattern for the staircase is based on the one at the Paris location but was modified to meet building codes, and the perimeter millwork molding is paired with Venetian plaster walls. “It’s classic luxury with a contemporary flair,” says Skalaski.
Most of the store is set in white and light tones, with the VIP fine jewelry salon on the first floor receiving special treatment with black antiqued walls and high-polished brass wall vitrines.
Lighting upgrades also provide some sparkle. Metal halide is found throughout most of the store, with LEDS used in ceiling accent features and jewelry cases. “Lighting is so much better and crisper now,” says Skalaski. “Plus, the smaller fixtures give out the same output.”
While the 20-week project timeline was enough to make any general contractor, designer or supplier tremble, the store also had to overcome some site-specific challenges, including only one entrance (in the front) and one access point to the second floor. Work was strategically scheduled so that trades (including millwork, tile and digital technology) were not blocking each other, and completion of the grand staircase was saved for the end, with work scheduled by the hour.
If the new interior redefines luxury, then Christian Dior’s new 57th Street façade redefines the concept of making an impression in New York. The entire storefront was refreshed by reusing the existing glass and adding the Dior logo and cannage graphic, then backlighting it with hundreds of LEDs.
“LVMH stays true to the brand,” says Skalaski, referring to Dior’s parent company. “It’s a great strategy. The mix of old and new touches makes people want to be part of that tradition.”
Retailer: Christian Dior, New York – Athena Paspala, project manager
Design: Peter Marino Architect, New York
Architect: Barteluce Architects & Associates, New York
General Contractor: Shawmut Design and Construction, Boston
Millwork: Daniel Demarco & Associates, Amityville, N.Y.
Lighting: Metis Lighting, Milan, Italy
Fixture/Millwork: IDW, Vilnius, Lithuania
Stone: EDM USA, New York
Plaster Finishes: Fresco Decorative Painting, New York
Ceilings: David Wiseman, Los Angeles
Outside Design Consultants: Daniel Demarco & Associates, Amityville, N.Y. (millwork); Severud Associates, New York (structural engineer); Rosco U.S., Stamford, Conn., (specialty lighting)