It was uncharted territory for everyone. The first retail project by Dan Brunn was also the debut boutique for the seriously hip Los Angeles fashion label RtA, standing for Road to Awe. Dan Brunn Architecture did have a leg up, however. Having known RtA co-owner David Rimokh since childhood, Brunn was able to incorporate original, personal references into the design.
Further informed by a look book and a visit to the studio, he began transforming a onetime carpet showroom “complete with columns and a faux mansard roof,” as he recalls, into a minimalist shopping experience free of mannequins and overstuffed racks. Against retail convention, he even covered up some windows. The exterior now streamlined, he surfaced it in cement plaster, painted it black, and affixed white neon signage in an upper corner of the facade.
River rocks encircle an olive tree. Photography by Brandon Shigeta.
Darkness transitions to light-and-bright for the 1,200-square-foot interior. That’s partially courtesy of the L.A. sun shining through a new circular skylight, necessary for the health of an olive tree planted in the middle of the sales floor. (That surprising addition to the retail landscape nods to Rimokh and co-owner Eli Azran’s Moroccan roots.) Flanking the tree, women’s and men’s clothing—with an emphasis on denim and leather—hangs artfully on blackened-steel bars at varying heights. Totemlike rotating displays hold accessories.
With blackened steel, tea-stained oak, and polished concrete dominating the restricted materials palette, lighting is crucial. Soffits around the sales floor are fitted with LEDs, resulting in a consistent ambient wash with nary a spotlight. Shadow-free, everything is Instagram-ready. Next to the unisex fitting room, Brunn also inserted LEDs in apertures sliced through the dark planks on the wall and ceiling—a spot to wait while customers try on garments.
Speaking of a good fit, the RtA label appears to be perfect for Brunn. A New York outpost is next.
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