Block buster

Why Place Vendôme is Peter Marino’s happy place

Wallpaper - - March - Pho­tog­ra­phy: charles Petit writer: AMY ser­afin

No­body else on the Place Vendôme looks even re­motely like Peter Marino. Stand­ing in front of the square’s land­mark col­umn, he is dressed in his ha­bit­ual headto-toe black leather, dark shades cov­er­ing his eyes. Around his neck hang sil­ver blade-like pen­dants, which he lov­ingly refers to as ‘biker trash’. The New York ar­chi­tect might be a hide­bound biker from Queens, but he has felt right at home on one of the world’s most ex­clu­sive squares since the 1980s, when he of­ten stayed at the Ritz on busi­ness. ‘I be­lieve in karma,’ he says, ‘and cer­tain places call you.’ By the end of 2018 he will have put his sig­na­ture on seven dif­fer­ent ad­dresses here.

Many be­long to the LVMH group, with whom he has a close re­la­tion­ship, but there’s also Graff and Chanel Fine Jew­ellery. Marino is the rare ar­chi­tect who can de­sign neigh­bour­ing bou­tiques for com­pet­ing houses, mak­ing each one unique. He de­vel­oped this cre­ative adapt­abil­ity early in his ca­reer, when he was work­ing on pri­vate res­i­dences. ‘Mrs Smith would never hire you if Mrs Roberts’ home had even one ta­ble like the one she had,’ he says with a chor­tle. ‘You just don’t do it, be­cause you ain’t gonna get that job if you do.’

The first Place Vendôme ad­dress he de­signed was for jew­ellery brand Fred, in 1999, though the dé­cor has since been re­placed due to wear and tear. In 2007, he un­veiled Chanel Fine Jew­ellery, with silk-cov­ered walls and a stun­ning chan­de­lier in rock crys­tal and bronze by artist François Pas­cal, while 2010 saw the completion of Hublot, with a mon­u­men­tal paint­ing by John Arm­leder, and Dior Joail­lerie, where in­ti­mate sa­lons en­cir­cle a cen­tral atrium, all in 56 shades of grey.

Graff took its place along­side the Ritz in 2016. Lau­rence Graff, the com­pany chair­man, says he called Marino as soon as he found the right lo­ca­tion. ‘We wanted to cre­ate a jewel box in the heart of Place Vendôme, and Peter brought that vi­sion to life. He took our sig­na­ture Graff Green and soft­ened it, re­flect­ing the glam­our of the 18th cen­tury.’ Marino is cur­rently work­ing on a sec­ond ad­dress for Graff in the same area, near Hô­tel Costes, and is also work­ing on a new Bul­gari bou­tique on Place Vendôme, set to open in late 2018.

Last Oc­to­ber, a mag­nif­i­cent new Louis Vuit­ton ad­dress opened on the square: two 18th-cen­tury hô­tels par­ti­c­uliers com­bined, their for­mer mag­nif­i­cence re­stored with stone floors and par­quet pat­terns. Marino mixed old and new, con­trast­ing a stone stair­case with mod­ern glass balustrades, play­ing with tex­tures

from bronze to straw mar­quetry, and nod­ding to house codes via de­tails such as lacy leather logo cur­tains.

Aside from their lux­u­ri­ous­ness, what these spa­ces have in com­mon is that they are prac­ti­cal and invit­ing, turn­ing shop­ping into an ap­peal­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘I’m more in­ter­ested in the cus­tomer than the mer­chan­dise,’ he ad­mits. ‘Peter un­der­stood that re­tail is not the most es­sen­tial thing,’ says Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuit­ton, ‘but feel­ing en­gaged and con­nected is.’

At the new Louis Vuit­ton store, for ex­am­ple, clients are sur­rounded by com­fort­able seat­ing, where they can ad­mire mu­seum-qual­ity art along with cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories dis­played for easy view­ing. Nat­u­ral light has been a pri­or­ity through­out Marino’s ca­reer, ever since his wife, a cos­tume de­signer, told him to un­cover the win­dows at New York’s Bar­neys de­part­ment store.

Also key to his stores is con­tem­po­rary art, of­ten site-spe­cific. A pas­sion­ate col­lec­tor, Marino has not one Rothko but two, is help­ing to fund the restora­tion of An­to­nio Rizzo’s stat­ues at the Palazzo Du­cale in Venice, and cre­ates art him­self, such as sculpted bronze boxes for Gagosian last year. He was given free cu­ra­to­rial rein at Louis Vuit­ton, where he chose 33 works for the space, in­clud­ing a por­trait of young Louis Vuit­ton by Yan Peim­ing, two colour­ful paint­ings by Kimiko Fu­jimura, and Rashid Rana’s com­pos­ite of 20,000 pho­tos de­pict­ing Place Vendôme. ‘When you work with artists, you get a bet­ter re­sult,’ Marino says. ‘Pope Julius wasn’t wrong in hir­ing Michelan­gelo to paint a few ceil­ings.’

The ar­chi­tect vet­ted each piece with Michael Burke and LVMH CEO Bernard Ar­nault. There’s ob­vi­ously a lot of trust there – Marino has worked for Ar­nault since 1995, and he must be one of the only peo­ple who dares call the lux­ury goods ti­tan ‘Dude’. He says Ar­nault looks over each of his plans with a sharp eye. ‘He’ll say, “I hope you don’t mind, but I think this and this could use im­prove­ment.” I go, “Dude, not only don’t I mind, I’m go­ing to get the credit for hav­ing it look much bet­ter!”’ Shortly after our talk, he dashes off to a meet­ing about his work on the iconic Sa­mar­i­taine, which LVMH is turn­ing into a ho­tel and re­tail spa­ces.

Though Marino makes a large part of his liv­ing de­sign­ing stores, he rarely goes shop­ping – with ma­jor projects on the go from New York to Tokyo, a KTM 1290 Su­per Duke R to ride and an im­mense gar­den to tend at his Southamp­ton es­tate in New York, there’s sim­ply no time. He also de­signs his own leather gear, hand­made by a ‘guy in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic’ and so stiff he can’t re­move his jacket with­out help.

In­deed, if Marino has a sig­na­ture style, it’s in his own look. ‘I rarely want to buy some­thing some­one has de­signed for an anony­mous per­son. I find that weird, be­cause they have not de­signed it for you. When I’m into be­ing anony­mous, I will go there.’ And then there’s that in­fec­tious laugh again: ‘At the mo­ment, I’m not.’∂

Marino sur­veys his happy place from within the louis vuit­ton flag­ship he de­signed last year

Marino must be one of the only peo­ple who calls Bernard Ar­nault ‘Dude’

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