Dimorestudio in London: there’s much to discover at Browns Brook Street
Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran rethink the historic address
Which route through the newly opened Browns Brook Street would Emiliano Salci recommend to first-time visitors setting foot into the concept store? Far from prescribing a sequence of spaces and displays – commanding four floors, the site counts a restaurant with courtyard, a shoe room, a fragrance corner and a Parlour area, the latter a stage to numerous by-appointment-only services from styling to beauty treatments – Salci instead argues for a more congenial approach. “You have to live it,” he says on the phone from Milan. “To experience it like a home.”
It’s a sentiment that sits well with the address’ history: Grade II* listed, 39 Brook Street as it stands today was built in 1720. In past decades, it has been home to interior decoration company Colefax and Fowler, and the firm’s high society owner, Nancy Lancaster.
There are aspects of Browns Brook Street that Lancaster would recognise as familiar, chiefly among them the Yellow Room. Such was its appeal that during Lancaster’s residency, the space on the site’s first floor – nearby, there’s a resplendent ante room, where Flemish artworks can be admired – was photographed to grace the covers and pages of magazines. Today, it makes for a striking mise en scène to Browns’ womenswear offering.
It’s a selection drawn from heritage brands – say, Gucci, Fendi or Burberry – and recent discoveries. Championing emerging talent is something of a forte, ever since Joan Burstein established the business with her husband Sidney. Mrs B welcomed the work of then-little-known designers including Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and the Missoni family to London; today, the buying team selects from the likes of Wales Bonner, Molly Goddard and Glenn Maartens’ Y/Project. And it’s this, a harmonious interplay of past, present and the innovative that makes Browns Brook Street an address to earmark.
“I was amazed by the beauty of it,” says Salci, when asked to recall his initial reaction to visiting the building in its original state. “I really liked the idea of this house which has this history. All the stuccos, the frescoes, the decorations, the wooden floors.” Since 2003, Salci has made up one half of Dimorestudio, the architectural and design studio he co-founded with Britt Moran and which is headquartered in a 19th-century dwelling in Milan’s historic Brera area.
Here, in northern Italy, the duo – together, Salci and Moran have realised retail spaces on commission for Fendi, Dior, Diptyque and Sonia Rykiel among others – set about blueprinting their plan for Brown’s new boutique in London’s Mayfair, located a stone’s throw from the fashion retailer’s original set-up on South Molton street, where it had started trading in 1970.
In reaction to the storied townhouse’s architecture and legacy detailing, the duo decided on a multi-layered approach. Some areas have been restored to former beauty, others reinvented, some left as inherited. Naming contemporary artists Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Fausto Melotti among their muses, Salci and Moran matched modular metallic structures with floors tiled in glossy black; there are neon lamps by legendary Irish creative Eileen Gray and chairs by Italian expert Arflex. Such modern design is cleverly off-set with nods to the location’s past, such as handmade wallpapers, their custom design imagining faded Victorian floral motifs.
Nostalgic grandeur is balanced with advances in digital technology: since 2015, Browns has been part of e-commerce innovator Farfetch and in-store innovations include virtual mirrors connected to the Browns app and website. Back in real life, a central staircase frames a Dimorestudio light installation and leads the way to explore at will, as suggested by Salci.