The Big Idea: Shop From Home(s)
Pay a visit to David Alhadeff ’s Beverly Hills digs and he’ll let you take the Lindsey Adelman dangling light fixture home with you. You’ll have to pay for it, though, because you’re not just in Alhadeff ’s home, you’re in his contemporary design gallery, the Future Perfect, where everything from the Chris Wolston anthropomorphic chair to the Bari Ziperstein ceramic vessel is for sale.
Alhadeff’s concept began in 2017, and the design world took due notice. Fast-forward three years and it has reached critical mass. After the Future Perfect’s home galleries came the Invisible Collection’s London apartment, the e-commerce design company’s first brick-and-mortar space, and Clive Christian’s unveiling of what he called a “lifestyle apartment” for his furnishings. The trend has even changed industry terminology. No longer is visiting a “gallery,” let alone a “showroom,” in vogue; now it’s all about a “residence.” In recent months, 20th-century Scandinavian gallery Modernity appeared in an 18th-century mansion in London, and Studio Twenty Seven was in the final stages of installing its contemporary works on the 47th floor of Herzog & de Meuron’s Jenga-like Tribeca condominium tower before the Covid-19 shutdown temporarily halted work on it. And jewelry designer turned furniture-maker Lara Bohinc shared her plans with Robb Report for a London townhouse, one where she’ll live with her mod chairs, tables and accessories.
Why the sudden urge for an authentic, if highly elevated, domestic environment, long before much of the world was directed to stay home? For one thing, it creates context. Buyers no longer have to rely on imagination alone to picture what sofas, beds or chandeliers will look like in their homes, because they can see how they behave in this one. For another, the trend capitalizes on a now integral ingredient for all brick-and-mortar merchants: experiential retail. The appeal of crossing an invite-only home’s threshold is more likely to lure customers out of their own houses than the prospect of visiting white-wall galleries or stark fair booths. To that end, even the design world’s more rigid forums are falling in line. In an experiment in 2019, TEFAF Maastricht, one of the industry’s most respected fairs, mixed its tribal-art stands with its participating design galleries, creating more cohesive fair environments, and found the fusion so successful that it repeated the format this year. TEFAF is smart to adapt, as the rookies have a head start: The Nomad Circle showcase debuted in Karl Lagerfeld’s former Monaco villa a few years back, with participants’ designs staged in the lush residential setting, and its momentum has not slowed since. The event celebrated its third St. Moritz iteration in February, inviting collectors to the nearby historic Chesa Planta museum, built in 1595 as a well-appointed house. It seems, in design terms at least, if you want to get ahead, get a home.