Kelly Wearstler’s design for Ulla Johnson offers retail therapy
A symphony of rich textures plays as saliva dances in the sunlight I. Johnson Los Angeles, California, flagship store designed by him Kelly Wearstler Its range of collaborations with furniture makers, artisans and artisans gives the space its local character.
The immersive shopping experience begins upon arrival as visitors park their cars in an oasis-like plaza – designed in collaboration with the landscape architect Miranda Brooks -And proceed through the side entrance of the structure. The facade’s weeping mortar brick finishes are a minimalist introduction in contrast to the duo’s warm patterns that echo throughout the expansive 3,000-square-foot urban building.
“Ulla’s collections are layered and colourful, so the design must embody these elements. The inherent femininity of her style presents a fascinating challenge in crafting an interior that can reconcile those characteristics,” says Wearstler. “The goal is to ensure Ulla’s fashions remain the focal point, where the space is Serves as a beautiful backdrop to display her pieces.” Such is the case with a collection of European white oak parquet flooring accented with Rosa Corallo stones, polished plaster and woven raffia walls by CMO Paris that coincide with the visual merchandising.
The grounds are echoed through entry into an airy two-story solarium flanking the rear and up to the most intimate of programs – quite literally – anchored by a 16-foot-tall indoor Brachychiton tree. The informal public realm on the ground floor is reflected in the décor of two spaces connected by a corridor, which hides the service components and changing rooms, which look more like they were selected from a personal property than as points of sale.
Generous skylights allow every textural element from furniture to fabrics to kiss the sun while customers lose themselves in the conversation encouraged by intentional seating. A sculptural resin table by Los Angeles-based designer Ross Hansen, and a miniature table by California artisan Vincent Boxic for socializing.
Adjacent to the solarium is a lavish display of accessories and objects crafted in the ‘gnarled wood room’. It resembles the interior of a jewelery box more than a simple showcase and mimics the Wrightian technique of compressing space, highlighting this swirling textured case, before releasing clients back into more breathy rooms. This transformation adds to the effect of revisiting the double-height volume. Canadian artist Jeff Martin’s whimsical jigsaw tables add to this effect.
Behind the plants and opposite the accessories is a mirrored staircase that ascends to an exclusive-access area, which hosts a VIP fitting room and can accommodate press events or appreciation requested for specific clients.
Wearstler’s presentation throughout is masterful. Each interior vignette is as much anthropological as it is the practice of interior design. Retail items are intermittently placed among a mix of vintage goods and locally sourced contemporary designs. Three candelabras by Olivia Bossi hang in the main foyer while a handmade ceramic sconce by French artist Olivia Cognit dazzles in the VIP fitting room not far from a Moisart chair by French artist Christian Astogovier. Still noteworthy are a pair of Carlo Scarpa’s 1970s wood-framed Cornaro chairs, Ingo Maurer’s fan-like Ochiwa wall lights, and a high-backed carved wooden hall chair by Urano Palma.
The project represents a major milestone for the famous interior designer. “This was our first outdoor architecture project. The building had not been updated in decades, so we needed to bring the architecture to life first and foremost,” says Wearstler. “We embraced a lot of natural light and found opportunities to bring the outside in. The Brachychiton that anchors the boutique center near the stairs could not have existed before the renovation.”
The implications of store location for the fashion designer are twofold. “We already have a connection with so many great denim manufacturers, producers and dye houses here, and now our proximity allows us to harmoniously create custom, store-exclusive pieces,” says Johnson. “I’m looking forward to expanding what we can make in Los Angeles for Los Angeles,” but more importantly is its location that can serve as a hub in West Hollywood’s Design District. “Creating a community and public space here was so important, for the local makers and women who have long supported the brand,” Johnson continues. “This intention is consistent with some of the initiatives that West Hollywood has taken, in terms of nurturing permeable soil and creating an enriched pedestrian life.”
Photography by Adrian Gott.