By  on August 14, 2007

BEVERLY HILLS — The Chanel boutique on Rodeo Drive will reopen on Wednesday after an eight-month renovation, revealing a feminine new design that pays tribute to the house's legendary founder, Coco Chanel.

Architect Peter Marino conceptualized the design for the 14,700-square-foot store and "was very inspired by Coco Chanel's apartment in Paris [at 31 Rue Cambon]," said Barbara Cirkva, president of Chanel's fashion division in the U.S. "One of Peter's ideas was to bring a residential feel into a retail environment. I think the luxury customer relates to that and understands it."

Marino's firm also designed most of the store's furnishings, including a gold leaf-backed glass coffee table and a host of chairs and sofas covered in custom tweed fabrics, a nod to the house's signature fabric.

The four-story Beverly Hills store is the second highest-performing unit for the company, just behind the 57th Street location in Manhattan.

The unit was renovated with a Peter Marino-designed concept five years ago, but since then, "the design of the store concept has evolved," said Cirkva, "and we felt [that] because Beverly Hills is such a key market in the U.S., it was important that we incorporate some of the newest ideas into the store. Beverly Hills is really a flagship city...it's international and a great tourist mecca."

Cirkva said the company expects the renovation to significantly impact sales in the store. "We renovated Chicago last year, and since then, the business has been trending up from 30 to over 40 percent every month," she said. "So we would certainly expect Beverly Hills to have a similar type of response."

The revamp included a complete reworking of the store's facade, which wraps around the northeast corner of Rodeo Drive at Brighton Way.

The new storefront is an eye-popping dedication to the iconic black-and-white packaging of the Chanel No.5 fragrance. Blocks of glossy white fake stone are framed by blackened metal in repetitive rectangles. "The box was a very specific proportion, and you get the connection [to the fragrance box] between the planes of space," said Cirkva.

Inside, the new design called for the build-out of the first Chanel fine jewelry and watch department in North America, a 2,460-square-foot space with caste bronze walls and its own separate entrance on Rodeo Drive.The jewelry boutique leads into a residential-feeling space coined The Salon that features a cozy fireplace-adjacent seating area, a rock crystal chandelier inspired by one found in Chanel's apartment and the first of six specially commissioned works of art for the store, all of which take inspiration from the company's founder.

In the salon, Flemish artist Johan Creten created a sculpture of a woman's torso covered in camellias — Chanel's favorite flower — in unglazed Sèvres porcelain.

Creten, who was in town for the opening, said the sculpture was inspired by a female Roman torso on Chanel's mantel he admired.

French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, who also flew in for the occasion, said he took inspiration for his wall-sized Murano glass sculpture from Chanel's legendary pearls. The sculpture, which hangs in a window in the second-floor ready-to-wear department, resembles a massive string of pearls, rendered in glass-and-crystal and lined in gold leaf.

Pearls were also the inspiration for Italian artist Paola Pivi, who created a wall-mounted 3-D piece using strands of plastic pearls topped with black beads that jut out from the wall.

Three large-scale photographs taken by American artist Alex Soth at a recent Chanel haute couture show hang in the store's fourth-floor VIP room, an austere space with a tweed sofa bordered by a wraparound terrace.

American artist Peter Dayton created the landscaped panels (featuring camellias) in the store's elevator, while French artist François-Xavier Lalanne crafted a bronze stag in homage to a deer statue he found in Chanel's apartment.

The concept behind the commissioned works "was not just to purchase exciting art," said Cirkva, "but to have something that was representative of things that were important to [Coco Chanel]."

The boutique also includes the first-ever dedicated department for the brand's special ultraluxe collection, comprising pieces from the house's annual special collection of artisan-created pieces, which historically has bowed each fall. The tiny enclave was designed to resemble the inside of a jewelry box and will launch with exotic handbags and luggage, handcrafted footwear and fine jewelry, including a $43,000 gold necklace that links together dozens of handblown glass camellias.

The company is in the process of renovating its Palm Beach, Fla., store in a fashion similar to Beverly Hills. That unit is scheduled to make its debut Nov. 1. "We like the idea of having a continuity and certain iconic pieces in the design of every store," said Cirkva, "but I like that every city has a slightly different twist on the design."Chanel will open a second store in Los Angeles this spring on Robertson Boulevard, though the concept has yet to be finalized. "We're constantly looking at new projects," said Cirkva, adding that the fashion house has been eyeing Wall Street as a possible future location. "But we don't feel that Chanel should have 50 stores. We're in great locations, so it makes more sense to renovate."

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