You might think Aesop’s 200th global store opening deserves a song-and-dance. But, the ever-understated Australian skincare stalwart has rung in its achievement in typical style – quietly. Designed by Norwegian interior architect and seven-time collaborator Snøhetta, the 100 sq m Sloane Square flagship is a subtle choreography of light, warmth and scent.
Pitched on the corner of Duke Square, surrounded by a catalogue of elegant white-box stores, the rust-red clay walls add texture behind four facade windows, inviting passers-by in from the Chelsea cold.
‘The idea of street presence was central for us,’ says senior architect Peter Girgis. ‘Originating and rising up of from this large central element, we wanted warm-tones to beat out onto the street.’
Said central element consists of a Devonshire clay-plaster clad column that arches out of the floor into what Girgis describes as ‘an architectural tree’. It spans the ceiling, covering it in a breathable, atmosphere-enhancing texture that will help to ventilate the lightly-scented space. The ‘trunk’ surrounds a 4.5 sq m ‘water table’, upon which a slim veil of water cascades into four tin bath-sized fibre glass sinks, used for skin consultations.
The Devonshire clay-plaster clad column and surrounding water table. Photography: Paola Pansini
The interiors were devised in collaboration with Aesop’s longstanding in-house architect Jean-Philippe Bonnefoi, who provided Snøhetta with a mood-board of inspirations. ‘It included everything from music, notes about the local area, to movie-set scenography and Youtube clips of James Bond,’ explains project architect Gaute Simonsen.
Though the space doesn’t scream Die Another Day, Bond’s influence is ‘textually felt and implied’, says Girgis, in the space’s ‘slightly off notes’. Like the table full of vintage crystal-bottles holding unamed tipples (gin and vermouth perhaps?), or the so-bad-they’re-good Roger Moore-era corduroy chairs. These dressings – handpicked by Bonnefoi – add a comforting living-room feel to the otherwise highly conceptual, warmly-minimal space.