Compiled by Pari Syal
Photography: Courtesy Nick Leith-Smith Architecture + Design
Nick Leith-Smith Architects’ reinvent their long-standing creative partnership with Spanish Shoe Designer, ManoloBlahnik at Harrods, London’s fifth floor ‘Shoe Heaven,’ a 42,000 square foot salon dedicated to fine footwear...
Being the brand’s largest global outlet to date, the ‘Shoe Heaven’ occupies an exclusive space within the store’s west tower, set apart from the rest of the floor with its own dedicated staircase and entrance, the space designed to resemble the layout and atmosphere of a grand salon.
The impression is of a domestic space writ large, evoking the interiors of a grand fin-de-siècle mansion and inspired in particular by the architecture of the virtuoso Austrian architect Josef Hoffman. Hoffman was one of the leading proponents of European Art Nouveau and one of the founders of the Vienna Secession, a group of artists, architects and designers, who embraced a sensuous approach to the integration of craft and decoration into design.
As one enters the new salon, the Hoffman influence is immediately apparent, thanks to the strong geometric forms used to transform the ceiling, furniture, timber screens and display areas into a precisely engineered composition of vertical lines and diagonal forms. Shoes are presented on sliding library ladders that line the walls, while custom-built furniture is matched with vintage pieces.
The domestic qualities of the space are charged with refined geometry and rich colours, while the seductive sight of an array of Manolo Blahnik shoes fills the display shelves around the walls. These splashes of colour are echoed in the bold upholstery of the chairs and sofas. Nick Leith-Smith has used a selection of original Danish furniture from the early and mid nineteenth century to furnish the space.
The collection of pieces were originally sourced by Manolo Blahnik himself and have been restored and re-holstered in new colours and fabrics to match the space. These hues are also used in Blahnik’s own designs for silk lampshades and chandeliers, which along with the bespoke metalwork, were crafted especially for the project.
With expertise in luxury retail design as well as delivering detailed, highly crafted projects with strong elements of personalisation and individual taste the architect-shoe designer collaboration has built an enticing realm that not just reflects the strong brand values and identity of this iconic shoe designer but also marries a sound understanding of historic and contemporary design with contemporary craft, materials and form.