The inspiration for the new Edward Beiner sunglass boutique design is best described by Michael Neumann, principal at architecture and design firm MNA (New York), as “Italian 1960s coolness. Think of the movie, ‘La Dolce Vita.’ ” Only here, there’s no Anita Ekberg dancing in the Trevi Fountain.
When Beiner asked MNA to design his newest store in the Downtown Disney shopping complex, the team came up with the idea of a period feel, inspired by the Federico Fellini movie set in Rome, as a backdrop for modern, clean fixturing.
The biggest challenge for MNA was organizing an elevated brand presentation while still including a large number of SKUs and accommodating a great deal of shoppers – milling, examining, selecting and trying on merchandise – in a relatively small 1500-square-foot space.
“With sunglasses, you need to present a large selection,” says Neumann. “But Beiner’s approach is not self-service, open sell. These are high-fashion items behind locked glass, and there is staff available to consult and help.”
MNA’s solution, says the architect, was to create a clean environment, with high walls and a plaster vaulted ceiling to provide the sense of a larger space. A back wall of mirrors, reflecting daylight from the storefront, accentuates the illusion.
The square wall fixtures – boxes of tarnished brass and blackened steel – are designed with an art-like quality, neat rows of symmetrical sunglasses framing a central feature space, like mats on canvases along the wall. To reinforce the feeling of artwork, each wall fixture has a picture light above it.
The lighting was a challenge because MNA wanted a clean, “no-fuss” ceiling without a lot of recessed fixtures or diffusers. As a result, all of the lighting in the store is hidden, including the backlighting on the wall displays and the downlighting from floating bronze pendants that descend from the ceiling.
The material palette is light and neutral, from the hand-troweled white plaster walls and ceilings to the porcelain ceramic tile on the floor.
“It all feels like this really old, cool found space,” says Neumann.
There are consultation tables set at a distance from one another for privacy, and so shoppers aren’t constantly stepping around furniture or bumping into one another. And there is a private VIP consultation room behind the mirrored wall in the back.
Immediately inside the front door, an ebonized wood feature wall announces the Edward Beiner brand – “purveyor of fine eyewear.” Sunglasses surely Marcello Mastroianni would have worn.