Upon first glance, it appears as though the shop’s latticed displays are levitating. It’s one of many mysterious moves in Frédéric Malle’s newest boutique in Paris’ historic Marais district. For this, his fourth shop in the city, the famous perfumer (he’s the grandson of Serge Heftler Louiche, founder of Parfums Christian Dior) sought out the services of Parisian architectural firm Jakob + MacFarlane to help deliver his vision of a “space between what’s real and imagined.”
“Every new boutique represents a meeting of the minds, a collaboration between myself and a carefully chosen architect whose work I greatly admire. The goal is one of perfect artistic union, in which our two worlds collide and intertwine,” Malle said of the partnership. Inspired by Jakob + MacFarlane’s work on the restaurant Georges and the firm’s shelving system in the Florence Loewy bookstore, Malle said he knew that “together we’d invent a new way to display our collections.”
Malle envisioned a boutique where visitors could sneak away from the world and select a new, signature fragrance in a space that was quiet, intimate and tucked away from the world. Firm founders Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane returned with a concept that imagined the space as a self-contained box, slipped inside the shell of the street-level space in Marais. Within the box, a series of curvy displays – shelving units made from interlocked wood components, suspended from the ceiling – line either side of the room.
The boutique’s ceiling, walls and floor are mirrored, creating multiple reflections of the sculptural display cases. The effect is akin to that of a fun house mirror; distorted, partial and composite reflections warp the viewer’s perception of the store’s contents. Fragrances created by Malle’s team of perfumers fill each floating case, while portraits of the perfumers themselves line the shelves above.
Lighting was vital to establishing the fantastical atmosphere. Jakob + MacFarlane worked with lighting designers l’Observatoire to create interventions that would allow for subtle, soft sources of light. A series of cuts were made in the walls behind each display case, as well as in the ceiling, to back-light translucent panels that partially concealed each source. Similar cuts partially obscure spot lights in the ceiling, while light embedded directly in the shelving illuminates each individual perfume bottle from below.