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Wilkes Bashford, San Francisco, USA
Wednesday 26 Dec 2012
Talk of the Town (House). Wilkes Bashford, the iconic specialty store, has been re-imagined as a seven story “townhouse.”
Wilkes Bashford, the iconic specialty store, has been re-imagined as a seven story “townhouse.” The design casts each floor as a different room in the townhouse, encouraging a sense of discovery as clients ascend the space, which culminates in a penthouse lounge.
The building was gutted, opening previously shuttered city views, reinforcing the residential effect. The designer raised the entry level ceiling, relocated the dominant elevator, and linked the first two levels with a sculptural stair reminiscent of one you would find in a grand foyer. In a nod to San Francisco, fallen eucalyptus wood from the Presidio and furniture by the late designer Michael Taylor were used. Venetian plaster and marble reference the emphasis on Italian apparel, and custom wallcovering features Wilkes Bashford himself in historic Herb Caen newspaper columns.
The existing building presented multiple challenges for the design team. Small floor plates with existing seismic bracing were one challenge. By inserting a stock room between the braces and enclosing them on each level, the floors were transformed into a series of small vendor shops. Existing low ceilings forced the designers to express the beams, cladding them as architectural features. For example, the townhouse reference provides a subtle backdrop, allowing the merchandise to be the “star.”
The women’s shoe boutique on the second level was imagined as the townhouse’s garden. The designers used theatrical dappled light. Organic forms wrap existing structural members, and floral art to compliment daylighting veiled by translucent drapery (as if cast through trees). Sinuous sofas and floral textiles in earth tones further the organic mood.
On the entry level, ornate picture moldings serve as a backdrop to the grand stair, creating a “family portrait” of merchandise. Punctuating the ascent is a wrought iron balcony, its sculptural protrusion providing a home for exquisitely attired mannequins.