Designer, director and journalist Nick Vinson of Vinson&Co on storytelling through interior design, and finding new ways to support artists in lockdown.
Located in a typical Haussmann style apartment on Rue Saint Honoré in Paris, an area with historical ties to fashion. The Birkenstock 1774 showroom is home to the brand's special projects with creatives such as Valentino, Proenza Schouler and Marie-Louise Sciò.
An evocative space featuring ornate panelled walls, stone fireplaces and solid wood parquet floors. Birkenstock's challenge lay in creating an environment in this unique setting that reflected their core values of functionality, durability and sustainability.
Vinson&Co were selected to design the showroom interior, with a brief to create a flexible setting featuring neutral tones, handmade finishes and celebrating the natural light within the space.
The London-based bureau has worked with Birkenstock since 2016 and specialises in the creative direction of tailor-made projects for luxury brands. Beyond interiors, they also curate and develop collections of design objects for companies such as Berluti and MatchesFashion.
Director and founder Nick Vinson is also a prominent design journalist. His monthly column 'The Vinson View' has featured in Wallpaper* Magazine since 2013. He told Viaduct "My years at Wallpaper* have been spent hunting for talent and projects, and learning about makers. Its also honed my skills to search out more unusual, less-known pieces."
This far-reaching knowledge and finely honed sense of storytelling can be seen clearly in his design concept for the Birkenstock 1774 showroom.
"My starting point was a pair of Arizona sandals, used and loved. They have enduring appeal, they are built to last, and people still love them even if signs of age and use are more than apparent." Vinson continues "The showroom does have some new underpinnings, like the pieces from E15, and a few items from Karakter Copenhagen, but almost everything else is used."
"I always value things that are beautifully constructed. The work of a designer and a craftsmen together."
Vinson's favourites include "The Panchetto stools by Luciano Nustrini and the Cab chairs by Mario Bellini." He elaborates "The former, everyone went crazy for them and they are hard to find, the latter, because I found the whole set at Auction in Switzerland and they have so much patina, they have been loved and used, the leather gets better with age."
Another standout design is "the benches from Simon Hasan, they are beautifully crafted from oak, finished with felt upholstery and held in place with bridle leather."
The furniture is accompanied by rush fibre carpets, cultivated and woven in the UK. The showroom also features mid-century lighting designs by Carl Auböck and J.T Kalmar.
Vinson&Co sourced ceramics designed in the 1940s and '50s by Swiss ceramist Margit Linck, which are juxtaposed with Simon Hasan's boiled leather vases. The designer also specially commissioned art panels by London-based embroiderer Geraldine Larkin, in jute and felt, which reference the foot sole and uppers of Birkenstock’s footwear.
For Vinson, the high point of the project was Birkenstock's reaction to his initial presentation. He explains "Birkenstock's CEO Oliver Reichert was presented with the project and approved 99% of the selection in one sitting, he took out one chair as he thought it was not sturdy enough the rest went straight ahead."
What's next for Vinson & Co? Nick reveals "We are installing another floor for Birkenstock in Paris next week, which relates to what we already did, but its more offices rather than showrooms."
Outside of his work commitments, Vinson has also been finding ways to help support the creative industries in lockdown by shopping for art on Instagram.
The designer has found inspiration in one particular initiative, "The #artistsupportpledge, set up by Matthew Burrows where artists sell their work on Instagram, for prices up £200 (or $200/€200) When they have sold 5 pieces worth £1000, they, in turn, buy a £200 work from another artist."
He continues "Its a kind of economy on its own that works during lockdown. I have been following the hashtag since March, and I have now bought 7 works. Its a great initiative and a good way to discover new talent. There are now 150,000 posts with the hashtag. I loved watching it take off."
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