Retail residences are reimagining the shopping environment.
In response to the ephemeral pop-up and rootless digital retail environments, a new retail concept is emerging. Ingrained in and informed by their surroundings, these homey spaces bring their wares to life in an intimate and organic way.
In April 2019, iconic Parisian concept store Merci unveiled their latest venture: a three-floor, two-bedroom apartment built in 1870 where everything is for sale. The apartment was attentively and lovingly restored under the instruction of Daniel Rozensztroch, Merci’s artistic director, who took care to preserve original details like stained glass and fireplaces. Now fully refurbished, everything not nailed down is available for purchase.
Rozensztroch describes it as “a really interesting exercise in style, because it was a store but it was also a living space. It gave us a chance to show what we’re all about in a place that’s as real as possible.” Rozensztroch envisions the décor to “evolve by stratification” every three months or so, as pieces filter in and out organically.
Merci plans to bring the space to life as a true home, with elements that foster an intimate and familiar atmosphere: the space is currently shoppable by appointment only and is mostly reserved for friends or friends-of-friends, and, in the future, could serve as a place for a chef to take up residence for private dinners or to host design students for salons, Merci president Arthur Gerbi told The New York Times.
In March 2019, design gallery The Future Perfect outfitted a five-story townhouse in New York City’s West Village as a by-appointment-only residential gallery where all items are for sale. “It is the company’s answer to the increasing irrelevance of traditional retail,” The Future Perfect explains. “The experiential and exclusive environment of both residence and gallery in one creates a unique space to view culturally important works in a novel way.”
The aesthetic of the space – dubbed Casa Perfect – is deeply informed by its locale; the design captures New York’s modern elegance with a mix of classic elements, modern flourishes and jewel toned accents, as well as the city’s bold and defiant spirit with unexpected and captivating pieces like neon sculptures and gravity-defying chain lamps. “I was looking for a feeling” David Alhadeff, founder of The Future Perfect, explained of finding the right location for Casa Perfect New York. “So it wasn’t about a particular amount of rooms or square footage…I needed to have that feeling.”
Similarly, Tom Dixon’s new Milan restaurant The Manzoni, everything that diners see and use during their meal can be purchased. “The idea is that everything is for sale, so table settings, through to candle holders, glassware, furniture, absolutely everything will be available to buy,” said Jessica Strutt, Tom Dixon press officer. This brings the retail experience to life in a new way, she explained: “It’s in a hospitality context, so you can experience it and then see it in a live setting rather than just being on the shelf.”
The restaurant first opened its doors during Milan Design Week, but unlike most participants, it will be a permanent fixture in Milan. “After years of doing five-day exhibitions in Milan, we finally decided that we had enough of putting such huge energy into pop-up interventions,” said Tom Dixon. “We wanted to look at different ways of being present…it is the right time to forget being temporary and build something permanent.”
These one-of-a-kind settings are refocusing the retail experience on the people and places that make them unique. “To me, a store is a reflection of the people who work there. I believe in the edit, the eye, the curation,” said Gerbi. Alhadeff concurred: “Casa is first and foremost about the experience. The shopping comes second.”