June 1, 2011

A Touch Surreal: A Small Yet Statement-Making Cyprus Boutique

To compete with the bright lights and big names of a high-end fashion district in Nicosia—Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana, just for starters—a hip new boutique needs to make a grand gesture. Or three. So architect Konstantinos Chalaris, prin­cipal of SuperNova Studio, set out to give Kokoo a visual identity that speaks the volumes lacked by its slender storefront. 

Aimed at women 18 to 35 years old, Kokoo stocks young designers in Cyprus, plus emerging labels brought in from Milan, Paris, and London, so it was vital that the interior reflect an edgier, independent energy. “The main challenge was the small size of the space,” Chalaris says. “But I wasn’t scared of that. I knew that big statements would be the solution.” 

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Both were simultaneously born of the same concept. Armed with the confidence of knowing Kokoo’s owner well—he’s a repeat client—Chalaris presented a daring scheme.

“I decided on my approach quite quickly,” he says. “Luckily, the owner was all for it.” So much so that, once approved, the design was completed in under a month. 

A considerable portion of that budget went to ripping out most of an existing mez­zanine. With just a small segment remaining at the rear, over a pair of fitting rooms, he could capitalize on the 16-foot ceiling. The height gave him scope for insertions as surreal as anything René Magritte or Salvador Dalí might have concocted. 

A mammoth rooster, marine-grade plywood lacquered Yves Klein blue, serves as a cash-wrap desk. “The whole island ended up discussing the giant blue rooster, which was just the kind of word-of-mouth success we were hoping for,” Chalaris offers. A giant golden egg, hatching glossy black legs, is suspended from the center of a fantastical ceiling treatment: an insert of electric-blue faux turf in the tapering shape of the glass lucky charms worn in Greece to ward off the evil eye. And a constellation of standard-issue umbrella handles, 100 strong, protrudes from a sidewall starting at eye level and rising to just beneath the ceiling. Each element floats like a mirage in the black-and-white space, drawing customers’ eyes upward and diverting attention from the compactness of the 480-square-foot shop.

“We don’t like to use the usual boring retail fixtures,” he says. “We prefer to find different ways of display.” Indeed, the rooster’s cubbyholes are intended to hold hair accessories, and dangling from this umbrella handle or that umbrella handle are all manner of chokers, chains, and beaded necklaces. It’s like a Magritte painting come to life. Ceci n’est pas une boutique.

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