Situated in one of London’s most beloved neighbourhoods, Aesop Soho was designed by French studio Cigüe – in a continuation of a fruitful international relationship. Soho is a district with a chequered past: its genesis was as a royal garden during Henry VIII’s reign; subsequently, it became the French quarter during the heyday of Huguenot immigration. Later, and for much of the 20th century, it was a red-light district, entertainment hub and gathering place for creative spirits of all stripes. While Soho still bears traces of these chapters, it has become known most recently as a centre of fine dining and gastronomy. This light, airy space on the ground floor of a historic building is proud to takes its place in these celebrated surrounds. Using Cigüe’s beguiling assemblage of original materials, the design centres around the prized properties of enamel, an ancient technique used by Cypriot, Egyptian and Byzantine cultures, which now is used in industrial applications.
Viewed from the outside, the whiteness of the store is framed by the black façade and arch-shaped windows.
The enamel appears in the form of white rectangular sheets of various sizes, placed in an amusingly haphazard arrangement over every surface, secured with strong metal bolts in each corner.
Some of the sheets placed on the walls are bent – the resulting lips forming narrow shelves to hold the Aesop product range. The panels also cover the suspended counter, which juts out from one of the walls, as well as the low bench seats that emerge along one side. The enamel even intrudes into a hollow nook in one wall.
A white square-edged porcelain sink extends the chromatic and linear approach. Resting on a black steel frame and adorned with heavy-duty tapware, this piece also emphasises the workshop aesthetic. Black accents on light fittings, existing heritage poles and ceiling details offer a graceful contrast to the pale palette, while raw timber floors, mottled with paint, soften and warm, mediating dark and light.
Aesop Soho aptly reflects the highs and lows of the evolution of its local environment with a sophisticated, minimal palette, and intelligent materiality, that owes as much to the workshop as to any aristocratic sensibility.