You won’t find it on the top 10 list of most San Diego travel guides, but the historic Spanish Village Art Center, a quirky collection of Spanish-style stucco houses in Balboa Park, is one of the city’s most colorful and locally beloved public spaces. When Paris-based architect Marie-Eve Bidard of Bidard & Raissi saw the center, it presented just the type of inspiration she could use for her latest project: the new Cartier shop that opened this September in San Diego’s Fashion Valley mall, a few miles north of the park.
“While there are certain consistent elements in every Cartier boutique, each location also reflects its environment,” explains Bidard, who has designed stores for the brand in Copenhagen, Bangkok, and Fukuoka, Japan. “What’s magical about San Diego is the dynamism of this modern American city, the mild climate, the mix of people, and the Mexican influence.”
For the San Diego outpost, a 4,348-square-foot space that offers jewelry, accessories, perfume, and watches (including an exclusive watch strap with artwork of Balboa Park on the lining), Bidard enlisted Sika Viagbo of Atelier Lilikpó in Paris to create a mosaic inspired by the art center’s tilework. The six-foot-tall artwork features the brand’s signature panther prowling through a swirling landscape of intense blues, browns, and greens. “It’s a pattern that reminds me of the flowers everywhere in the village,” Viagbo says.
It’s just one of a handful of special commissions that help inject San Diego’s sensibility into the classic Cartier retail experience of a pale palette, subtly curved furniture, and luxurious materials like bronze and stone. Bidard evoked the city’s relaxed beach-town vibes by creating a series of wide archways in light oak throughout the shop.
Meanwhile, another custom installation, a straw-marquetry panel in the men’s salon, created by the Brittany, France–based workshop Jallu Straw, echoes the deep-blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. (It’s also a nod to the “straw-marquetry savoir faire of Cartier watchmaking,” notes Bidard.)
“When thinking about this new boutique, the spirit of home was always an important consideration,” says Cartier North America president and CEO Mercedes Abramo. “We wanted it to feel incredibly warm and welcoming—balancing the heritage of the maison with the modernity of a coastal California lifestyle.”
Produced by Vanessa Lawrence
This story originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE
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