House of Grace Chen
A tailor-made architectural & interior design project for one of China’s leading purveyors’ of Haute Couture fashion
Kokaistudios has completed the renovation of a 1920’s historical villa located in the heart of the city’s former French Concession and transformed it into the home for Shanghai based Haute Couture brand, Grace Chen. Encompassing a showroom, gallery, fitting rooms, offices, a library, a show kitchen as well as a VIP suite for a full lifestyle experience, the project is a milestone in the development of the brand and a symbol of its growth.
When fashion designer Grace Chen first approached Kokaistudios with her vision for the transformation of a Spanish style eclectic heritage villa into an elegant maison designed to embody and be the home for her eponymous brand we were immediately intrigued and interested. With her focus on craftsmanship and intricate details and a style that is rooted in Chinese culture but modern in style we found a kindred spirit in Grace and we worked collaboratively and smoothly from the outset to create the project within a very tight design timeline. Our point of departure and inspiration for the design of the project came from Grace Chen’s beautiful and intricately crafted clothing and we developed a project that is timeless , elegant and modern that contrasts and complements the classic design of the villa itself. The project is located on Huashan Lu in one of Shanghai’s most charming neighborhoods and our design services encompassed the architectural renovation and interior design of the villa, which dates to 1924, and several additional structures that were added over the years. In addition we completely re-designed the garden areas to create a lush living / event area capable of hosting small fashion shows and designed a new glass pavilion display and event space in the garden.
The entrance to the villa is marked by a large black and bronze weaved metal sculptural entrance gate the design of which was inspired by one of Grace’s designs and it provides both privacy coupled with a strong sense of arrival. Once you pass the gate you enter into the gardens which are finished in white hand-hammered stone flooring with soothing water features and lush greenery centered around the glass cube event space. Designed to showcase both Grace’s newest creations and also to become a temporary exhibition space for other artists and designers; has already become a sought after event space in the city in a few short months. Just past the event space is the show kitchen which opens onto a shaded and intimate al-fresco dining area. Kokaistudios embarked on an architectural restoration of the building that valorized the villa’s original design features including the French doors and the inlaid marble mosaic flooring on the upstairs terrace as well as the beautiful facade brickwork. The building had a more modern addition added in the 1980’s and we chose to clad this part of the project in a simple green wall system with planter boxes and flowering plants.
For the design of the main villa itself we settled on a palette of neutral colors and a range of natural materials that together create a comforting environment that acts as a supporting backdrop to the designer’s beautiful couture creations. The main entrance to the villa is through the original French doors into a light filled showroom & lounge featuring custom designed displays and large antique mirrors with soft rounded edges inspired by 1930’s art deco styles. The journey through the villa continues up to the 2nd floor where the main fitting rooms are located; while 2 of them maintain a very feminine feeling and style one has a more masculine tone in preparation for the launch of an upcoming menswear collection. The warmth of the ground and 2nd floor; given largely by the colour palette and the marmorino wall finish gives way on the 3rd floor to a more un-finished feeling in the intimate library “salon” area where we decided to leave the exposed brick finished in a simple dove grey paint.
The 3rd floor also features a VIP suite for out of town guests designed to allow clients to experience a complete lifestyle experience of the brand. Kokaistudios conceived a soft femine chic combination of color palette and furniture so as to create a bright but at the same time intimate and cozy environment. While much of the custom designed cabinetry and display mirrors were designed in a style to complement the historical nature of the villa we chose to contrast them with design features and finishes that were intentionally modern including furniture and fixtures from noted domestic and international producers including pieces by Flos, Fortuny, Stellarworks, Bussola as well Murano glass lamps designed and produced in Italy by the family of Chief Architect Filippo Gabbiani. Kokaistudios worked hand-in-hand with Grace to realize her goal in the design of the project to create a space where her clients could experience the brand and also a lifestyle associated with it; a place of timeless and chic elegance.
A blend of functions between retail, exhibition, hospitality, working spaces and landscaping required a particular attention in terms of lighting design. Kokaistudios designed for the interiors a flexible system that created a warm, private and almost residential mood adaptable to different situations such as small events, fashion shows or exhibitions. The interior lighting is complemented by and exterior lighting design that has been balanced to perfectly match the overall perception of the villa; the garden and most of all the outstanding glass pavillion as main eye catching space during the evening time. This project, even if it is a relatively small in scale, represents a perfect synthesis of Kokaistudios aim for holistic design by requiring the architect to become tailor for a tailor and to create a fully designed space ranging from the restoration of a historical building revitalized by the insertion of contemporary and edgy architecture unified by the architecturally designed landscape and designed down to the smallest details and finishings - a truly tailored project.