Hey, Czarina: Kusmi Tea’s Paris Flagship by Saguez & Partners
Most luxury tea brands in France strike Olivier Saguez as distinctly masculine when it comes to visual identity. He cites as an example the famous Mariage Frères, with its neo-colonial boutiques and restaurants dominated by dark wood and wicker or Chinese-style chairs. The exception is Kusmi Tea. Designing its flagship in Paris, Saguez & Partners applied what he calls “a festive touch, creating a space that’s contemporary, whimsical, and very feminine.”
Kusmi Tea’s illustrious history begins with Pavel Kousmichoff founding the company in 1867 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and quickly becoming a supplier to czars and czarinas, who avowed a particular weakness for the Bouquet de Fleurs blend. Since being acquired by Orientis, the brand has undergone sustained development. There are now 47 locations worldwide, filled with dis-tinctive packaging in vibrant tones.
To counterbalance those flashy colors in the 2,700-square-foot duplex space on the Champs-Elysées, Saguez opted for rigorous lines and basic shelving. He then revved things back up by introducing Kusmi Tea’s trademark bright red—check out the eye-popping stairwell.
Upstairs, Saguez notes, the ambience at Café Kousmichoff is “like a private apartment” with a Russian accent. Most striking is a freestanding partition that sports a geometric pattern inspired by Russian constructivism. On other walls hang photographs of both imperial buildings and remnants from the Soviet era. Even the signage on the restroom doors takes the form of matryoshka nesting dolls.
For anyone who literally needs to powder her nose, there’s no need to retire to the restroom, as Saguez installed mirrors right above the banquettes. “That way, it’s easy for women to sit and touch up their makeup at the end of a meal,” he explains. You can’t get more feminine than that. —Ian Phillips