A striking mix of glossy black walls and white light, the Vegamar Selección, a wine boutique on an exclusive shopping street in Valencia, Spain, was given the black-tie treatment by architect Fran Silvestre and interior designer Andrés Alfaro Hofmann to meet the client's ambition to achieve an image of sophistication and quality.
The 15-year-old Vegamar winery, located 40 miles inland from Valencia, was looking for greater visibility in the city to showcase a new line of select wines. Instead of a conventional wine store, they wanted a place to bring clients and offer wine tastings, sell wine and other products, and serve light gourmet tapas at lunch hour. Situated cheek-to-cheek with luxury jewelry and fashion shops, Vegamar Selección takes a similarly high-end approach to sales, with personalized service and only a few sample bottles on display.
The design team sought to increase the sense of scale in the 1,300-square-foot space by exaggerating the depth of the long, narrow display area at the front and drawing the visitor's eye toward a wider space in the back, which is dedicated to wine tastings, business meetings, and tapas. To this end, they lined the sidewalls flanking the street entrance with a continuous run of shiny black cabinetry sliced by light-gray display counters. These are outlined with recessed strips of LED lighting that illuminate the edges of the floor and ceiling, as well as the countertops. A central streak of linear fluorescents, built into a trench along the length of the ceiling, accentuates the depth.
The cabinets are made of MDF panels with a polished lacquer finish. (The designers originally sought black glass, but the budget of just $100 per square foot, including mechanical work, did not allow it.) According to the architects, the dark, radiant surface multiplies reflections, “dissolving the limits of the store and making reference to the color of the wines on display.” In contrast, the wood-look laminate flooring and laminate counter inserts are a pale, silvery gray and the ceiling is white.
The drama of converging light lines finds a point of focus at the rear wall, where a plane of translucent Plexiglas, backlit by fluorescent tubes, sends dazzling reflections back through the space and silhouettes the attached tasting bar: a chorus line of stools pulled up to a floating counter made of the same translucent acrylic-glass material. A strip of mirror at the top of the wall, directly above the illuminated panel, reflects the ceiling's bolt of light, allowing it to continue toward infinity.
On one side of this rear area, access to restrooms and a small kitchen with a serving counter are hidden almost seamlessly in the black wall. Opposite, a freestanding structural column with a table cantilevered off one side provides a more generous area for tastings, and for meetings. Refrigerated display cases for Spanish ham and other specialties, and a projection screen for promotional videos about the winery, are located beyond the table.
Silvestre and Alfaro Hofmann coordinated their work with the graphic designers Nacho Lavernia and Alberto Cienfuegos, who developed the company's product packaging, using similarly dark, minimalist tones, so that even the wine bottles take a back seat to the spatial experience. A tiny cash register area at the front of the shop includes pullout drawers custom-sized to fit special shopping bags designed by Lavernia & Cienfuegos.
Vegamar Selección is the inverse of Silvestre's Atrium House, playing off the cavelike darkness of a commercial interior rather than the brilliant sunshine of a Mediterranean patio. However, both projects showcase Silvestre's interest in subsuming functional details such as doors and countertops into an all-embracing abstract formal play. As in his house designs (always realized with Alfaro Hofmann as a consultant for interiors and furnishings), the prominence Silvestre gives to the visual impact of seemingly airbrushed, polished surfaces over other qualities such as texture or spatial richness, reflect the aspirations of his clients, sharing with them a particular idea of glamour. In the case of Vegamar, Silvestre notes that the firm was previously known for a table wine, sold mainly to local restaurants, and their new outlet represents a bid to attract a more demanding clientele.
Like the creators of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies of the 1930s, with their glossy Art Deco sets filmed in black-and-white, Silvestre and Alfaro Hofmann have given Vegamar that touch of class—an architectural version of “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails.”
Client/Owner: BODEGAS VEGAMAR SL
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Jordi Martínez, Project architect
Interior designer: Alfaro Hofmann (www.alfarohofmann.com)
General contractor: Studio2
Art direction: Adrián Mora
1,300 square feet
Structural system: Refurbishment project
Wood doors: Black lacquered MDF doors (high-gloss)
Paneling: Black, lacquered MDF panels (high-gloss)