So after I wrote my last blog entry about Martin, I felt bad that I started a conversation about the “best home stores” in the world but really only mentioned the first three stores that came to my mind. So I’ve spent the weekend thinking about where my travels have taken me and the best stores that I have visited. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to enough places to put together a list that I think is pretty well-rounded. So without further adieu, my nine best home stores in the world (in no particular order):
Spazio Sette, Rome, Italy: This store is amazing for its product selection as well as its physical surroundings. A short distance away from the Jewish quarter, this store is sprawling—consisting of three levels spread across what appears to be several buildings because of the meandering layout. Inside you will find everything from a full range of Alessi products to top-of-the-line kitchen cabinets and everything in between like outdoor furniture, jewelry and clothes. While its unsurpassed product selection would qualify it for my list alone, the clincher is the AMAZING ceiling frescoes on the top floor of the store. There’s nothing like relaxing on a Cappellini chair while looking up at a 300 year-old piece of art. Enough said.
The Conran Shop, London, England: Terrance Conran is one of my heroes: the visionary man behind a conglomerate that does high-end, design-focused retail, manufacturing, architecture and design, and restaurant and bars. In my mind the only thing he is missing is hotels, though that can’t be too far off given his resume. So it is no surprise that his retail store is stunning-another one-stop-shop for everything including furniture, lighting, kitchen/bath and gifts. His London shops are both housed in old, architecturally significant buildings but modernized in a way that is so London. Truthfully, when I visited his shops a few years ago I didn’t spend as much as I would have expected—I was reeling from how expensive this city was and couldn’t bear to only window shop. To this day I call this the city that makes New York look like cheap.
Collette, Paris, France: OK, so Collette is probably not a new “find” to a lot of people who read my blog. It’s widely regarded by a lot of people as a ground-breaking retail store; known for its visionary cross-merchandising (another shop that carries fashion, beauty, food, design and more), sleek, modernist design, and edgy visual merchandising. Located on the prestigious Rue Saint-Honore, the Rodeo Drive of Paris, this store is truthfully more about fashion than home decor. In terms of fashion, it is cutting edge—think Barney’s times 10. It’s design selection is a small part of its business but still cool. It was at Collette that I bought my first and only Vitra Miniatures set (Verner Panton chairs). When I discovered this place seven years ago I was awestruck because it was so unique back then. Today it is less so but still cool enough to make my list.
ABC Home, New York, New York: Alright another no-brainer right? It’s huge, it’s gorgeous, it’s iconic. What is there left to say about this place? What makes it unique on this list is its heavy focus on textiles including rugs, upholstery, fabrics, drapery and bedding. What else is cool is that it carries vintage items, which I love, especially as my design aesthetic becomes more and more eclectic. Another common thread of my list: amazing merchandising with products that layer atop of one another flawlessly; everything from the lighting on the ceiling to the rug on the floor is for sale. You could spend an entire day at this store exploring all six stories—it’s that great really. The best part is that there are even bargains to be had. I remember moving to New York and needing rugs for my cold bare floors. At ABC I found great 100% wool area rugs in the sale area for 50% off. In New York City???
Moss, New York, New York: Of all the stores on my list, Moss is probably the least accessible. Not because of the staff, who I found surprisingly helpful and friendly once you engaged with one, but because of the layout. This place is like a museum of modern, cutting-edge furniture, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Apparently they do this on purpose, I suppose to focus the attention on the product. So like a museum a lot of stuff is on presented on vast viewing platforms or behind glass. Again, while not the most accessible way to hawk your wares, this method does make you look at and admire things in a different way. For innovative visual merchandising and presentation, this store is the best. Like all my favorite stores, they carry a lot: furniture, lighting, jewelry, art (extensively) and tabletop. Come prepared to window shop but don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Limn, San Francisco, California: Alright, am I a bit biased being from the Bay Area to place Limn on my list? Maybe, but relative to others on this list, it certainly holds its own. First off, Limn is focused pretty much on furniture and lighting, though they also sell kitchen cabinetry and patio furniture plus a small amount of tabletop stuff. Secondly, in its areas of focus, Limn is a one-stop-shop for high-end furniture like I’ve never seen. It seems to be the exclusive Bay Area retailer for all the blue-chip Italian stuff like Cappellini, Poltrona Frau, B&B Italia, Living Divani, de Sede, etc. Literally they carry everyone that’s anyone of the high-end European stuff. To carry all this stuff, Limn has a huge, warehouse/showroom that is essentially divided into a series of shop-in-shops. While Limn can be a bit overwhelming and not as meticulously culled and put together as my other fave stores, you will not see more amazing furniture under one roof than here anywhere period.
Unica Home, Las Vegas, Nevada: First off, I will admit I have not been to this store. Well why’s it on my list then? Because it’s one of my favorite online stores that is the ultimate everything-under-the-sun design store. Over the years I’ve bought a lot from them, from big to small—from a Knoll Saarinen coffee table down to Chilewich place mats. They carry so much cool stuff it’s pretty mind-boggling. So when I heard that they opened a 12,000 square foot showroom, it made my list sight unseen. Their website also has a few pictures which substantiates my confidence in them. I know this store has to be cool—it’s also in Vegas so how can it not be?
Muji, Anywhere, World: So I’ve been to numerous Muji stores around the world, most recently the New York store in SoHo. While each store has been different in size and layout, they all carry only Muji “branded” products and are merchandised similarly, which is cleanly, efficiently and modernly. The joke about Muji products is that their brand is essentially no brand, which is the defining design characteristic of everything they make. Their clothing, pens, luggage, toothbrushes, etc. all have no branding on it. Some call it minimalistic, which is true, but I call it the ultimate expression of industrial design. That’s why another store whose focus is not necessarily home items made my list—their concept, design aesthetic and products just rock for how clean they are. My all-time favorite Muji product: their wall mounted CD player.
Martin, St. Helena, California: See my last blog entry
In closing, my list is obviously not complete by any means. I remember some great stores in Amsterdam that I can’t place now, and would bet a million bucks that there are ground-breaking stores in Spain, Germany and Switzerland. Though I’ve been to Asia several times I never had time to check out their home stores; but again Seoul, Toyko, Hong Kong and Shanghai must have their share. Lastly, there is no store from LA on my list, which is another shock. Having spent 6 years of my life there I’ve been to many stores but I can’t justify one particular one that should be on my list, which seems wrong. So here is my list for now—anyone have anymore nominees?