High-End, Low-Pressure Stores That Do More Than Just Sell Jewelry

These three luxury retailers want you to make yourself comfortable—very, very comfortable

If you’re looking at the above photo and thinking, What a great place to Netflix and chill—trust us, you’re not the only one. In fact, that’s just what Material Good wants you to think. How better to get customers comfortable for viewing (and buying) high-end watches and jewelry? That’s why more and more luxury retailers are designing spaces that look and feel and act like homes: They have kitchens and dining rooms and living areas. The jewelry is almost part of the decor. The idea: Create experiences—cocktail parties and art exhibits, for instance—for clients to entice them to hang out. The philosophy is, as Material Good says, “retail as residential.” So…dinner and diamonds? Don’t mind if we do! 

 

Material Good

120 Wooster St., New York City

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Retail as residential. It’s both a decorating philosophy and a rallying cry for Rob Ronen and Michael Herman, the owners of Material Good, a luxury watch and jewelry salon that opened last September in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. More a remarkably well-appointed bachelor pad than a traditional retail store, the second-floor space boasts a custom black lacquer foosball table, a Calacatta Borghini marble fireplace, a fully equipped kitchen, collector-worthy contemporary art—and, oh yeah, an upscale selection of diamond jewels and Swiss timepieces. “We’re an art gallery mixed with a watch salon and jewelry store,” Ronen says. “And that’s where I think the future of luxury is—mixed in a space like your home.” —Victoria Gomelsky
 

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Retail Revisited

Ronen spent eight years as the national U.S. sales manager for Audemars Piguet before he and Herman—the two met while working at the now-defunct diamond jewelry manufacturer M. Fabrikant & Sons—combined their talents and their Rolodexes in the watch and diamond industries, respectively, to create a luxury sales salon in the guise of a livable space. “There’s not a single spot in the whole store where you can stand by a showcase,” Ronen says. A watch wall—complete with marionette lighting, custom trays, and an emphasis on theatrical presentation—highlights the company’s two foundational brands, Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille, as well as tricked-out Rolexes from cooler-than-thou Bamford Watch Department. But the rest of the fancy merch—including jewels by Fred Leighton, Hoorsenbuhs, and Spinelli Kilcollin—is subtly displayed in vintage bar carts or, in the case of the store’s collection of rare Birkin and Kelly bags, in a luxe walk-in closet. Everything, says Ronen, “is under digital lock and key.”

Style as Substance

Ronen and Herman hired Meg Sharpe, a New York decorator best known for her work with the city’s buzziest nightclubs, to style the interior, and she did so with considerable panache. The formal living room features a Vladimir Kagan Serpentine sofa, while the dining room is dominated by a table made of solid black-walnut wood with bronze inlay (it seats 14). Not even the bathroom was overlooked. Its wall and sink crafted from Kenyan black marble provide the perfect backdrop to Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, under whose coy gaze guests conduct their business.

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Experience Required

Don’t, however, let the nightclub-chic decor distract you from Material Good’s real selling point: It’s the ultimate luxury hangout space. “Once every 10 days or two weeks, we have a sit-down dinner for 14 people,” Ronen says, pointing to the impressive dining table and the imposing Douglas Little chandelier that hangs above it. For clients seeking a little more seclusion, a private room in back—whose most striking feature is a racy David LaChapelle photograph entitled “Addicted to Diamonds”—offers an intimate place to discuss custom engagement ring designs. Sure, the second-floor space lacks the traffic of a more conventional location—but Ronen prefers it that way. “At the ultrahigh end of luxury, do you need to be a storefront?” he asks. “We take an organic approach. It’s much more about quality over quantity.”

“The concept is unforced luxury; it’s supposed to be organic, like a home,” says Rob Ronen. “Clients roam around, hang out.”

 

 

Todd Reed

1511 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, Calif.

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If you still think of Venice as a grungy beach town, you probably haven’t been there lately. Tech brands including Google and Hulu have brought an influx of wealthy young people to the area, now dubbed Silicon Beach. As we know, with money come great shops and eateries, like Gjusta, a scene-y, bustling bazaar of pickled and artisanal delights, which Bon Appétit named America’s Best New Restaurant of 2015. It’s in this context—a few doors from Gjusta’s sister restaurant, Gjelina, and a block away from Alexis Bittar—that designer Todd Reed’s store-slash-studio-slash-home has settled in as if it had always been there. —Ari Karpel

The Vertical Garden

The first thing you notice, besides the upward expanse of glass and coated aluminum, is a two-story wall of plants framing one edge of Reed’s boutique. “People stop and take pictures every day,” says Anjanette Dienne Sinesio, Reed’s vice president of sales and marketing. “They don’t always know it is a jewelry store.” The mix of plant life and glass helps bring the outside in, and announces an ongoing theme of Reed’s work: earthy, ecologically minded materials such as raw, rough-hewn diamonds.

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Circle of Life

Another theme of Reed’s work is connection. This plays out in his choice of circular display cases made of reclaimed wood (“We call them pods”), where customers sit with a salesperson who can reach inside to spin an elegantly crafted lazy Susan of gems. “Todd wanted to cultivate a sense of community, not like, ‘I’m the authority, I’m standing over you,’?” says Sinesio. “We don’t want people to be afraid to walk in.” 

In-House Artisans

“This is where all the good stuff happens,” announces Sinesio as we enter the glass-enclosed studio, visible from the first-floor showroom, where most of Reed’s men’s collection is crafted. Three jewelers sit, peering over their work. And there is a well-used Crock-Pot. “I’m assuming that’s not for lunch,” I declare, nodding at the contents. She assures me it’s not. “It’s what we call ‘the pickle’: a citric acid solution that cleans metals after they get soldered.” It might be luxe, but Reed still keeps it real. 

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There’s No Store Like Home

On level two, you’ll find the bridal shop, though you might not realize it. Says Sinesio, “We attract people who want alternative bridal”—natural colored diamonds, matte finishes, and men’s jade bands. Up another flight is Reed’s home—his second, after his native Boulder, Colo.—where he spends about one week a month. His bedroom and bathroom are hidden behind closed doors, while the open kitchen/dining room/living room/deck were literally made for events. There, Reed entertains clients with private chefs so, on occasion, the store can rival the best restaurants in Venice.

“We’re selling Todd’s art, and his art happens to be jewelry,” says Anjanette Dienne Sinesio.

 

 

Stone & Strand

185 Franklin St., New York City

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It might seem counterintuitive for an online jewelry retailer to open a showroom in the heart of New York City’s pricey Tribeca. But Stone & Strand’s new loft is designed to cement the brand’s relationship with millennial shoppers. After browsing styles from 75 emerging and established designers on its website, clients can now attend events and art openings—and get a closer look at some of the jewelry—in a chic space above the cobblestones of Franklin Street. It’s all part of how Stone & Strand is redefining the concept of luxury to emphasize “experience, emotion, and connection,” says creative director Brooke Magnaghi. —Kathy Henderson

A Beautiful Vision

When Stone & Strand debuted in May 2013, founder and CEO Nadine McCarthy Kahane never doubted that women would be willing to purchase jewelry based on photos. “I had just bought my wedding dress online,” says Kahane, who had recently earned an MBA at the Wharton School. “If a customer trusts that you are offering beautiful things, you can develop a really good relationship.” It helped that Stone & Strand offers delicate gold, silver, and jewel-encrusted pieces costing as little as $100. Says Kahane: “For us, a $300 ring is a significant first purchase”—one that introduces clients to a “personal jeweler” on staff. Soon, however, Kahane and Magnaghi, who joined S&S after 12 years as an editor at W and five years as a stylist for JCK, hatched a larger vision for what Magnaghi calls “a physical face for the brand.”

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Be Their Guest

Decorated in gray and white tones, with pink and lavender accents, Stone & Strand’s loft looks like your most fashionable girlfriend’s living room. Jewelry is displayed on trays atop a farm table from a Paris flea market; 1960s Brazilian jazz adds to the retro vibe. (The rear portion of the 1,600-square-foot loft houses offices for S&S’s 10 employees.) It’s almost possible to forget you’re in a retail space, which feeds into Kahane’s belief that for millennial women, “luxury is more about memories and experiences than a high price tag or brand. They want pieces that tell a story.” Staffers stand ready to give styling tips for, say, a threadable ear cuff, supplementing the website’s video features and illustrated articles on how to layer rings and necklaces. 

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Double the Fun

To attract “downtown girls” to the new showroom, Stone & Strand kicked off a series of events in February, offering Valentine’s Day bouquets from the hip florist Stems Brooklyn. A photographer is set to snap portraits of moms and their children at a Mother’s Day event; a manicure event and a piercing event are on tap for summer, along with rotating art and photography exhibits. Meanwhile, the space showcases S&S’s partnerships with international jewelry brands such as Epiphanie, Nayla Arida, Ofée, Shagreen & Tortoise, and Catherine Zoraida. Discreetly placed iPads allow shoppers to place orders via the Stone & Strand website, even for items on display. “We want people to feel they can come in for a fun escape from their day, to try on jewelry or engage in an event,” Magnaghi says. “As a business rooted in the online space, we’re constantly working on ways to connect with clients, and planting roots on solid ground gives us a new level of credibility.” 

“We’ve always emphasized personal service and meticulous presentation,” says Nadine McCarthy Kahane.