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A Change of Stripes: Béton Brut in Residence at Paul Smith’s Flagship Store


A Change of Stripes: Béton Brut in Residence at Paul Smith’s Flagship Store

Ben Anders October 19, 2022

As the founder of modern design store Béton Brut, Sophie Pearce has recently had to overcome what she terms “some design chromophobia.” A collaboration with the fashion designer Paul Smith has persuaded Pearce to evolve her signature monochrome palette and venture into something a little more chromatically chaotic.

a corner scene featuring an andrea branzi flower stand with bamboo form legs an 12
Above: A corner scene featuring an Andrea Branzi flower stand with bamboo-form legs and red lacquered top (Italy, 1986);  a Mario Bellini ‘Il Colonnato’ table (Italy, 1977); four Pompeo Fumagalli chairs (Italy, 1970s); and a Giovanni Banci resin sculpture (Italy, 1960s). The blue tapestry and blue face are from the Paul Smith Collection.

This autumn, the Paul Smith London flagship shop at 9 Albemarle Street in Mayfair has become the new location for Béton Brut to showcase its collection of vintage furniture and homewares. “While the cardinal rule remains—I will only buy what I could have in my real or imagined home—I can also now source more surprising pieces with a ‘Paul Smith hat’ on, or at least fashion my own response to Paul Smith eclecticism,” says Sophie, who began Béton Brut in 2013 and has since earned a reputation for sourcing rare and distinctly sculptural furniture and lighting from Europe and Japan.

a familiar béton brut scene, featuring angelo mangiarotti&#8\2\17;s tr 13
Above: A familiar Béton Brut scene, featuring Angelo Mangiarotti’s Trifoglio table (Italy, 1971);  a Carlo Scarpa Cornaro sofa (Italy, 1970s); a Baumann-style wooden screen; a Dillon & Wheeler Multipla chair, (UK, 1992); and a black geometric wool carpet (2000s).

Located in the dedicated furniture and art space on the lower ground floor, Béton Brut will present rare and unique pieces dating from the 18th to the 20th century, with the edit refreshed regularly. The initial selection will include desks, lighting, sofas, screens, chairs, sculptures, and more, all hand-picked with the unique Mayfair shop space in mind.

a desk area featuring a \19th century plaster cast of a classical bust; an arch 14
Above: A desk area featuring a 19th-century plaster cast of a classical bust; an architectural sculpture by Sottsass (1) (Italy, 1986); a Montalcini & Pagano desk (Italy, 1920s); two Frank Gehry ‘Side Chairs’ from the Paul Smith Collection; a Kazuhide Takahama Nefer 3 Lamp for Sirrah (Italy, c. 1970); and a print from the Paul Smith Collection.

“Béton Brut has quite a link with the fashion world, as we regularly rent our collection for fashion shoots,” explains Sophie. “It was through one of those connections that Paul Smith approached us.” The residency, which is set to be a long-term arrangement, follows the recent launch of Paul Smith’s own homewares collection and home fragrance launch.

a florentine ruault sculpture entitled &#8\2\20;window&#8\2\2\1; (\20\1 15
Above: A Florentine Ruault sculpture entitled “Window” (2017); a Cini Boeri 45/180 Gradual sofa (Italy, 1970); Philippe Cazal’s “Trouble” wool and silk carpet (2010); an Isamu Noguchi Akari paper pendant (Japan, 1951); and a red chair and table, wooden blocks, and painting from the Paul Smith Collection.

The brief was to revive the furniture offering at Albemarle Street. “For us it was the chance to present Béton Brut to a new audience—and a creative challenge: how to curate a collection that feels both Béton Brut and Paul Smith that will surprise and delight.”

a cavallini italo engraved metal vessel (italy, \1960s); audoux minet rope coff 16
Above: A Cavallini Italo engraved metal vessel (Italy, 1960s); Audoux Minet rope coffee table (France, c. 1940); Klaus Uredat Corbi Trio sofa (Germany, 1969); Annig Sarian 4059 Floor lamp (Italy, 1970); and a mobile from the Paul Smith Collection.

The location, 9 Albemarle Street, is a Regency building with a custom cast iron facade created in 2013 by 6a Architects that, according to Sophie, “reflects the philosophy of what’s inside: total resistance to homogeneity and a commitment to eclecticism and craft.”

On the lower floor, artificial lighting has encouraged Sophie “to pick a scheme that has atmosphere whilst still feeling bright and poppy.” She explains: “Inspired by a recent Paul Smith collection, we’ve chosen varying shades of chartreuse and lemon sorbet for the walls, with pops of rust and brick red in the pieces.”

sophie pearce, founder of béton brut, with a paolo passerini chaise lounge 17
Above: Sophie Pearce, founder of Béton Brut, with a Paolo Passerini chaise lounge,(Italy, 1984) and a tall table from the Paul Smith Collection.

Against this backdrop, the area has been cleverly zoned. Considered “vignettes” have been created from an expert edit of desks, lighting, sofas, screens, chairs, and sculptures. “I’ve also had fun incorporating art and objects from Paul Smith’s extensive collection,” says Sophie. “It feels more of a dialogue than a takeover.”

For more designers in residence, see:

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