High-end, exclusive fashion meets retail in a carefully curated shop designed by David Montalba. By bringing much-needed light and a sensuous material qualities to the new store, Montalba reflects the retailer’s vision and supports her unique business approach. When Rochelle Gores, the discerning and sophisticated daughter of a private equity pioneer, conceived her upscale Arcade boutique set to open on the Melrose strip of West Hollywood, she chose the design-focused and already noteworthy architect David Montalba to give shape to her vision.
Montalba and his firm, Montalba Architects Inc., founded in 2003, are responsible for some of L.A.’s most exquisite retail shops, including the Monique Lhuillier boutique in Beverly Hills and the Neil Lane jewelry store. The young Santa Monica-based firm has produced commercial, retail, and residential works in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, winning a variety of prestigious design honors along the way. Montalba’s work includes progressive, upscale and modish interior experiences as well as architecture and urban planning.
Yet it was the architect’s sensitivity to Arcade’s needs – and his deep experience in the retail sector – that proved the perfect match of designer and patron.
Interview, and a match
Gores interviewed several architects, but she and Montalba, who have each spent
significant time abroad, connected because he was just as interested in her business plan as he was in designing her shop.
The store was conceived with a row of sculpted walnut displays with built-in lighting.
It was to be Gores’s first retail venture, and she had high expectations for what she wanted to create. Montalba’s signature is to create spaces that are visionary and conceptual yet meet the practical needs of the client. He could be innovative while also sensitive to the desire to create an elevated shopping environment for the international and hard-to-find designers that the boutique would carry.
The store is modeled abstractly after 18th-century European shopping malls called arcades, where designers would gather to showcase their designs. So it is the experience as much as it is the physical environment that make this highend fashion boutique stand out amidst the growing stretch of Melrose Avenue’s trendy retail shops.
Montalba married organic sensibilities and purposeful merchandising into the internalized landscape that has become the perfect setting for classic haute designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Emanuel Ungaro, as well as up-and-comers Alexis Mabille and Lyn Devon.
The physical interior of the space presented the greatest challenge to Montalba.
The 1,700-square-foot linear space was very narrow and offered almost no natural light, except for in the storefront windows. The ceilings are low and long.
“We needed to create a connection between light and the products that could
allow for a sense of identification and orientation of the merchandise,” Montalba said.
To do so, he sculpted three triangulated “vitrines” topped with walnut, and built long walnut soffits above them to house lighting. Their arrangement is such that, when lit from within, the displays rhythmically disperse light, creating an “arcaded” space. The centrality of the vignettes and their visual impact compels the customer to interact with the displays and merchandise rather than having to absorb everything all at once, The store’s entrance features pounded brass and a compellingly framed view of couture. creating a lasting impression on the consumer with the shopping experience. Wall-to-wall walnut woods and one-eighth-inch brass plates pounded by a metal smith and enhanced with patina further accent the space.
The walnut and custom-finished brass elements warm the lighter hues of the concrete and acrylic. Mirrored surfaces visually expand the space and further reflect and filter the light.
With David Montalba’s unique design vision and knack for retail experiences, this savvy young business owner got just what her business needed: a store as impeccably designed as the exclusive merchandise it sells. The boutique even has its own jewelry designed by famed Neil Lane and worn by Paris Hilton, Madonna and Rosario Dawson. Valet parking, signature cocktails and personal shopping further enhance Arcade by Rochelle Gores, which has quickly become an up-to-the minute fashion haven for stylists, fashion-devotees, and high-end private clients.