Frank Lloyd Wright’s San Francisco Gift Shop Meets Iconic Italian Design
Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Oct 5, 2017
Italian luxury brand ISAIA opened its first San Francisco boutique in Frank Lloyd Wright’s V.C. Morris Gift Shop (1948).
“It is all about the space,” said Gianluca Isaia, third generation CEO of the high-end menswear company. Isaia marked the 60th anniversary of the brand by opening the San Francisco boutique in Frank Lloyd Wright’s historically significant V.C. Morris Gift Shop.
“The process of taking a landmarked building of such gravitas and historical interest, was an undertaking of great precision and detail,” Isaia said. “We were honored to have the opportunity to work within such a respected piece of American architecture.”
In 1948, Frank Lloyd Wright was hired to design the shop for V.C. Morris, which would sell fine silver, china, crystal, and tabletop ware. The shop was designed as a remodel of an existing structure.
Some of Wright’s design elements, or lack thereof, were met with skepticism.
As Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer wrote in Wright:
The clients expressed some dismay about a gift shop without the usual storefront window, to which Wright explained that the merchandise was not to be pushed out on the sidewalk for general view, but the arched tunnel would intrigue the shopper to peer in, see the items on the stone ledge, and then open the door. Wright humorously referred to this entrance as the “mouse trap.”
Isaia embraced Wright’s innovative design.
“All of the original materials designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were not touched or modified,” Isaia said. “This included everything from; original wall plaster, millwork, trim, flooring railings, bubbled ceilings, suspended planter, glass store front planter on entry, and of course the brick and stone façade.”
Any design updates—including fixtures, furniture, colors, and materials—were carefully crafted and monitored by designers, preservation planners, local architects, and even the Preservation committee at the San Francisco Planning Department to retain Wright’s intentions for the space, while incorporating Isaia’s brand.
“The real challenge was to blend Frank Lloyd Wright’s original architecture with the new reality of creating a luxury shopping experience. Our aim was to blend these two realities that were so different, and to emphasize in the process the beauty of both,” said architect Martino Ferrari.
While Isaia was careful to maintain the historical values of the property, modern technology was added to the space to fulfill Isaia’s vision for the product display and retail experience.
“We kept the integrity of every design feature intact,” Isaia said. As an update to the store’s existing beauty, we focused on adding a color sensitive lighting schematic, sound system, and the styling of our impeccable product, to complete the experience.”