The Soft Touch
For Ballantyne Cashmere, Nicola Quadri dressed up a Tokyo shop in florals by Josef Frank
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Did you say "plaids and florals"? Sounds like the ultimate fashion faux pas. But not in the hands of Nicola Quadri. When Ballantyne Cashmere's new owner, the European retail conglomerate Charme Investments, called on the architect's Associati Spreafico Quadri to design the venerable Scottish label's shops worldwide, he chose to channel Josef Frank at the location in Tokyo's upscale Aoyama district. "His botanicals are the perfect marriage with Ballantyne's tartans," Quadri says of the 1940's patterns by the great Austrian-born Stockholm-based designer—one of Quadri's personal favorites. "Frank was to Sweden what Gio Ponti was to Italy."
In Italy, as it happens, Quadri claims to be the very first dealer in Scandinavian modern furniture and decorative objects. After opening the Galleria Nicola Quadri in Milan in 1999, he concentrated on pieces from 1940 to 1960. But he's currently expanding his scope. "We're researching new pieces in production," he says. "Always with a Nordic flavor."
There was precious little Nordic anything at this prospective Ballantyne site, a former Moschino boutique, so Quadri gutted the two-story, 1,900-square-foot box and reconfigured the facade: Two rows of small windows have given way to a glass curtain wall with a white-painted steel frame that all but disappears. "We brought Ballantyne's entire image street-side," the architect explains.
For the interior, two Frank botanical patterns set the tone: the more naturalistic Brazil, with its cream-colored ground, and Teheran, which sets more vibrant elements against black for a quirky chiaroscuro effect. Both of the patterns are rendered in linen, and they cover surfaces everywhere: walls, built-in shelves, and the curved enclosure of the stairway at the rear. However, the pervasive Frank fabrics aren't the only unifying factor. Quadri conceived downstairs and upstairs as quasi-identical to maximize display flexibility for the men's, women's, and accessories collections. As a counterpoint to the patterns' riot of color, he kept the remaining surfaces spare. Solid-oak planks cover the floors; white-painted ceilings are interrupted only by the unobtrusive circular faces of Arne Jacobsen's recessed fixtures, installed downstairs in an oval that flows seamlessly with the curves of the architecture and the furnishings.
The furniture is minimal and, naturally, of Scandinavian descent. A display table—subtly biomorphic in pale oak—is based on a 1950's Bruno Mathsson design now out of production. Inches away sits a rare Norwegian mid-century find, a supersize round ottoman with a teak frame and, inevitably, a top that Quadri covered in Frank's darker fabric. Display fixtures are equally restrained. Slender built-in racks of nickel-coated steel offer striped and polka-dotted women's sweaters, while similar rods show off orange, yellow, and green argyle men's sweaters in the shop window.
Customers curious to get a better look at themselves dressed in any of the above can consult the mirrors that back certain fabric-covered wall panels, which sales staff can swing out on request. "Otherwise, the mirror disappears," Quadri explains. "You see only the flowers." And the finest Scottish cashmere.