Master strokes: Tomas Maier talks architectural heroes and rebuilding Bottega Veneta

Tomas Maier, wearing black leather jacket, blue t-shirt and jeans, leaning against a curved cream coloured wall, metal hand rails and wooden steps, glass exhibition stand to the left
As Bottega Veneta turns 50, we join Tomas Maier at the fashion brand's new maison in Beverly Hills, for which he tapped into the Mediterranean Revival works of architects such as Bertram Goodhue and George Washington Smith. The interior is heavy on painted plaster work and white-washed oak
(Image credit: Spencer Lowell)

This September, Bottega Veneta turns 50 and celebrates 15 years under the creative stewardship of Tomas Maier. In that time Maier has overseen the men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, accessories and jewellery collections, a fully fledged home and furniture line, as well as the fit-outs of around 350 stores, a show space and showroom in Milan, a new base for the brand in Montebello Vicentino, in the Veneto region of Italy, and most recently a ‘maison’ in Beverly Hills, one of a new generation of the brand’s stores that embrace local architecture.

The maison, opened on North Rodeo Drive this summer – its façade ‘nothing more than the name and three big arches’, in Maier’s words, and the playful shadow of a giant palm tree planted in front – takes its severity, restraint and use of materials from the Mediterranean Revival style, which was popular in California (and Florida) in the 1920s and 1930s. Maier wanted to connect with that time and chose to embrace the style ‘but in a restrained way’.

With each new project, Maier, whose father was a practising architect, immerses himself in local styles. ‘I used to go to LA and took an interest in midcentury architecture, starting with Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, Craig Ellwood,’ he says. (Bottega Veneta’s other LA store, opened on Melrose Place in 2013, is ‘very midcentury, because the building lends itself to that’.)

Travelling to Pasadena and on to Montecito, Santa Barbara County, he discovered the ‘Mediterranean Revival thing’ and architects who built locally, such as George Washington Smith and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, whose 1915 Val Verde house Maier admires for ‘the non-decoration; it’s that Mediterranean Revival that’s very simple and monastic’. He also enthuses about Lutah Maria Riggs’ 1938 Romberg House.

Maier was chuffed when LA’s City Hall, presented with the Rodeo Drive design for approval, said: ‘We’ve had every façade from every store in the world hanging here, glued on to our buildings; this is the first time in 30 years that someone proposed a design for that Rodeo strip that has something to do with our town.’

The designer lives near Palm Beach, Florida, where he has a store for his own, eponymous label that also houses a personally curated selection of books on Floridian architecture. He is encyclopaedic on who built what and when: architects such as Edward Durell Stone, who completed the condominium building 400 South Ocean Boulevard in 1964 (‘one of the nicest buildings there’), Addison Mizner, designer of the 1919 Everglades Club, Maurice Fatio and John Volk.

Maier’s vision has been key to Bottega Veneta’s success under his stewardship (it went from near bankruptcy in 2001 to bringing in a revenue of €1,286 billion last year). Construction of what would become the Milan show space and showroom was underway when the company decided to take on the site. Maier quickly intervened, adding a floating tent structure that links the buildings and ‘makes a bit of a statement’. Then there’s the bottega, or atelier, at the 18th-century Villa Schroeder-Da Porto, Veneto, restored in 2013 and offering 12,500 sq m of space and a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. ‘Its very human and friendly,’ says Maier.

His love of architecture even inspired the brand’s new fragrances. The Parco Palladiano collection takes customers through an olfactory journey into the Palladian gardens of the Veneto region. ‘I thought this was a nice story for the noses to create.’

While Maier likes to handle Bottega Veneta projects himself, for private commissions – such as a house in Maine, completed by Toshiko Mori last year, a ‘cantilevered, tucked-in, floating structure that is kind of see-through’ – he has handed over the architectural reins. How did it feel? ‘You work with someone who is very determined and knows what they’re doing, and then you have to find common ground,’ he says. ‘If both parties are like that, its a very healthy battle ground’.

As originally featured in the September 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*210)

Black and white image of Von Romberg House, Montecito, California, 1938, white building with arch design and stone columns, small windows, hanging outside lantern light, palm tree, shrubs and hedges, stone centre piece in the driveway and star design stone floor

The designer regaled Wallpaper* with a selection of his architectural influences: a veritable Maier mood board. Pictured: Von Romberg House, Montecito, California, 1938, by Lutah Maria Riggs

(Image credit: Spencer Lowell)

Black and white image of Von Romberg House, courtyard angle, white building, stone centre piece, with star design stone floor, palm tees, shrubs and hedges, archway with stone column, outside lantern light, ground and upper floor slim windows

Von Romberg House, Montecito, California, 1938, by Lutah Maria Riggs

(Image credit: Spencer Lowell)

Black and white image of The Main House at Lotusland, Montecito, California, 1919, stone slab driveway, cactus plants of various sizes decorate the front the house, slate roof, windows, clear sky

The Main House at Lotusland, Montecito, California, 1919, by Reginald Johnson

(Image credit: Spencer Lowell)

Black and white image of The Central Library, Los Angeles, 1926, stone status above the entrance, windows, tall conifer tree to the left, street lamps in a row either side of the drive way, pointed roof with Muriel design

The Central Library, Los Angeles, 1926, by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue

(Image credit: Spencer Lowell)

Black and white image of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, tall dome roof tops with bell towers, courtyard with row of stone arches a long the edge of the centre piece of circle stone designs inside rectangle borders, windows above the arches, clear sky

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1566 to 1610, by Andrea Palladio

(Image credit: Spencer Lowell)

Black and white image of Rosen House, Los Angeles, grass lawn, large stone slab steps leading up the house, large floor to ceiling glass panels, trees to the left and right, stone paving under the steps, clear sky

Rosen House, Los Angeles, 1963, by Craig Ellwood

(Image credit: Spencer Lowell)


For more information, visit the Bottega Veneta website

Photography: Spencer Lowell


Bottega Veneta
320 North Rodeo Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210


Also known as Picky Nicky, Nick Vinson has contributed to Wallpaper* Magazine for the past 21 years. He runs Vinson&Co, a London-based bureau specialising in creative direction and interiors for the luxury goods industry. As both an expert and fan of Made in Italy, he divides his time between London and Florence and has decades of experience in the industry as a critic, curator and editor.