Photo © James Newton

Hedonism Wines

Universal Design Studio / Speirs + Major


By Chris Foges

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London’s Mayfair district, populated by yacht brokers and art dealers, is a natural home for retailers trading on exclusivity. Hedonism Wines, a vintner with ambitions to be the “best wineshop in the world,” is taking a different tack. With single bottles costing as much as $200,000, many of its 7,000 wines would put a dent in the fattest wallet, but chief executive Tatiana Fokina stresses that the store is aimed equally at ordinary enthusiasts, and prices start at $20. The design challenge, she explains, was to convey a sense of luxury while welcoming all comers.

From the street, this translates as openness. The corner store occupies the ground and basement floors of a 1950s building. The architecture and interior design firm Universal Design Studio removed dividing walls and fully glazed the two street facades. There are no window displays to impede views inside, where yellow brick walls and reclaimed oak floorboards create a homey, muted backdrop for white wines, champagnes, and spirits.

The lighting, designed by the U.K.-based Spiers + Major, brings to life both the wine and the material palette of pale wood and patinated bronze, amplifying the amber and caramel hues so that the room calls to mind a glass of champagne. The fizz is added by castglass pendants, which hang in the space like bubbles, and by an effervescent chandelier over a cast-iron stair leading to the basement. This lustrous installation is formed by 125 mouthblown sommelier glasses suspended upside down from metal rods of varying lengths. A single LED module at the base of each stem creates a sparkling effect. Lighting designer Keith Bradshaw says that, as with much of Hedonism’s feature lighting, this serves to draw the eye away from the ceiling-mounted spotlights that really illuminate the room.

The bones of the scheme reflect principles of good retail. Cross light ensures that customers do not cast shadows over the displays, for example, but the nature of the merchandise adds complexity. Wine must be kept at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and conventional incandescent lamps produce a lot of heat, so the lighting team opted for LEDs throughout the store. While previously inconsistent in color and output, LEDs now offer improved control over light quality, says Bradshaw, who architectural record november 158 2013 lighting used a warm 3,000 Kelvin color temperature, similar to that of halogen lamps, to enhance the vivid labels on the bottles. An exception was made at the tasting table. Here, a cool 4,000 Kelvin, with a higher color rendering, reveals a full range of tones in the wine.

The light is layered: spots provide general illumination, uplights behind freestanding shelves wash the rough brick, and strip lighting integrated into the top of each shelf accentuates the goods. The diverse colors of the wines and bottles required extensive mock-ups to establish the right appearance and avert unwanted reflections.

The lighting designers used the same components to produce a greater contrast between areas of light and shadow downstairs, where a limestone floor, black ceiling, and copper pendants create a cavelike setting for racks of red wine. They brightened the darkest corner with a glazed cabinet for vintage Château d’Yquem in which the Sauternes are backlit by motion-sensor-controlled LEDs, while individual bottles appear to glow from within due to fiber optic cables concealed in their racks.

At night, the store becomes a vessel for liquid light as 11 synchronized video projectors blanket the interior with an animated tableau intended to intrigue passersby: champagne bubbles play over surfaces, as periodic lightning flashes reveal silhouettes of scudding clouds and flying bats. This quirky, seductive, and subtly spectacular display captures the qualities of a project in which the practical and technical demands of lighting are recast as opportunities for delight.

Architect: Universal Design Studio

Lighting Designer: Speirs + Major — Keith Bradshaw, Hiroto Toyoda, Ray Bill, lighting design team

Client: Hedonism Wines

Consultants: Fraser Randall (project and construction management)

Size: 7,000 square feet

Cost: $585,000 (lighting)

Completion date: 2012

November 2013
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