The phrase “paint store” is not known to conjure much in the way of excitement (hopeful anticipation, maybe). But with a new Los Angeles showroom, Farrow & Ball hopes to change that, one totem at a time.
Yes, totem: 10 of them, in fact, made of modular, stackable art objects that show off (and whose forms were inspired by) each of the company’s colors, from subtle “Borrowed Light” to vivid “Babouche” in Full Gloss—and everything in between.
The new 2,600-square-foot showroom—and its totems—are the work of Sandy Yum and Isaac Resnikoff of LA studio Project Room, who took on the task of designing the 88-year-old paint and wallpaper company’s new outpost on La Cienega Boulevard, in an area of the city dotted with other design shops.
Farrow & Ball gave Project Room carte blanche to “rethink what a paint store could be,” says Yum. And so the totems were born of the group’s desire to step away from the paper-swatch paint store paradigm. (“Sandy’s original word for them was ‘shish kebab’,” Resnikoff says, laughing.) How can a paint and wallcoverings brand better showcase the depth of a color or the luminosity of a finish? Working in three dimensions seemed like a step in the right direction.
“We knew we [would] bring the colors off the squares and into 3D space,” says Resnikoff. “Because of screens,” he adds, when asked about the omnipresent influence of Instagram and other social media platforms in consumers’ design decisions, “there’s a flattening of the visual experience. But we wanted to make sure the store was able to make an argument for seeing [the product in person].”
And argue it does: In addition to the eye-catching totems, the two-story space features a “concierge” desk for contractors and design professionals visiting the store to spec products for their projects; a wallpaper display that includes section 2-foot by 8-foot sections (meant to read more “wall” than “poster,” explains Yum); and a second-level “lounge.” And, because it’s LA, there’s a rooftop event space (planned for next year), which is handy for seeing finishes in an outdoor setting, Resnikoff points out.
In an effort to give everyone—from contractors to designers to DIYers—a place in the store where they can find support in choosing a paint color or fulfilling an order, Project Room designed a series of discrete, audience-specific spaces in the store, like a “concierge” desk for contractors picking up bulk orders and an in-store color consultant to help enterprising homeowners.
Despite the studio’s general design thinking for the project, they concede that they did perhaps make one concession to Instagram: the showroom’s photo-ready facade, which features vertical stripes of each of Farrow & Ball’s 132 colors, arranged chronologically in the order of their development. “We thought this was a great opportunity to show everything in its entirety as a kind of billboard,” says Resnikoff, noting, too, that the store’s Instagram geotag is already filling up with photos of passersby posing against the colorful facade.
So, what will “success” mean for this outpost and for the company, which is known more for gracing the walls of elegant country homes than for gussying up modern houses in Silver Lake?
“Success is always defined, in an architectural sense, [on a space’s] actual use,” says Yum. “A lot of people have [preconceptions about] Farrow & Ball,” adds Resnikoff, “and if we can change—or expand them—then that’ll have been a success.”