FOR “THE 1% OF THE 1%” OF SHOPPERS,
as designer Charles Sparks describes, store design must be the
ultimate in luxury. But when the customers are also businesspeople
and politicians, luxury design doesn’t mean opulence.
At Paul Stuart’s first store in Washington, D.C., luxury embod-
ies the traits of the retailer’s famed suits: classic, understated, and
perfect. From custom rugs on the tile floors to the striated zebrano
panels on the walls, the space communicates the design directive:
“the voice of modern, classic elegance.”
“It starts with the building shell and what it gives you. We call it
the bones of the store, and it’s central to the design,” says Sparks,
president and CEO of Charles Sparks + Co. in Westchester, Ill.
Design highlights include glass curtain walls, a central staircase
that appears to float, and seamless integration of merchandise
into the design itself.
“Charles Sparks + Co. has been a great partner with us for many
years,” says Bob Green, chief merchandising officer for Paul Stuart.
“They designed both of our stores in the Chicago market and have
a strong understanding of who Paul Stuart is. This knowledge and
experience allowed them to execute this accelerated evolution of
our design concept.”
Site selection and structure
The design firm’s involvement extended to site selection. Out
of two locations, Sparks suggested a corner spot in a building at
CityCenterDC, a new mixed-use neighborhood near the National
Mall and five blocks from the White House—but only if the retailer
could add an open stair and elevator—a major change to the
Combining retail, hospitality, and condominiums, the building
was meant to house high-end stores on its first floor only. But the
ground-floor space was too small for the retailer’s needs, so Sparks
recommended a two-floor store with a dramatic central staircase
visible from two glass curtain walls. It would mean construction
below occupied condos as well as extensive changes to the building,
whose second floor had not been designed for commercial use.
Space was needed for a tailor shop in the second (condo) floor,
while the basement needed a suitable receiving area.“That’s four
spaces for only 10,000 sq. ft. of space,” says Sparks. “It involved
the landlord’s scrutiny of everything we wanted to do.”
The complex project required numerous meetings before visuals
and finishes could even begin to be considered. Fifteen consultants
were involved, including an acoustic engineer to certify that con-
struction would not disturb residents, a structural engineer to ensure
that the staircase didn’t sway, an engineer for the curtain wall to cer-
tify that the glass could hold up awnings, and an elevator engineer.
PAUL STUART STORE MAKES BOLD STATEMENT
Shirt and tie colors echo the look of Leroy Neiman painting
on loan from the Smithsonian that hangs on one of the signature
wooden panels. Paul Stuart customers value culture, so the
company establishes relationships with museums and other
cultural institutions near their stores. The Washington store
is near the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums.