Wilkes Bashford, a legendary specialty store in San Francisco, underwent a top-to-bottom renovation in the city’s historic Union Square shopping district. The new design, based on a “townhouse” theme, presents shoppers with a unique experience. The store remained open throughout the multi-phase renovation, without interruption to the exemplary personalized service that people are accustomed to. Each level was refurbished, floor by floor, ultimately maximizing space and enabling the retailer to increase its apparel offerings. The building was gutted, opening previously shuttered city views, reinforcing the residential effect. Other considerable changes include the addition of two floors, raising the entry level ceiling, relocating the dominant elevator, and linking the first two levels with a sculptural stair reminiscent of one you would find in a grand foyer. In a nod to San Francisco, fallen eucalyptus wood from the Presidio and furniture by the late designer Michael Taylor were used. Custom wallcovering features Wilkes Bashford himself in historic Herb Caen newspaper columns.
The townhouse concept supports the client’s goals of a place where they can “meet and greet and talk to customers as if they are their friends or neighbors.” They invite them through the front door and strive to develop personal-professional relationships with each and every customer. The new design reinforces this feeling with each floor evoking a different room in the townhouse, encouraging a sense of discovery as clients ascend the space, which culminates in a penthouse lounge. The townhouse reference also provides a subtle backdrop, allowing the merchandise to be the “star.” One example among many is the women’s shoe boutique on the second level, which was imagined as the townhouse’s garden, complete with theatrical dappled light alluding to rays of sun filtering in. Organic forms wrap existing structural members, and floral art complements daylighting veiled by translucent drapery.