A Bold Step Changes the Tiffany & CO Store Color Palette…….

Tiffany & CO has had a presence at Cherry Creek, Denver for 18 years. The store was recently moved to a new location on the second level and was brought up to date with the current “Tiffany” branded store design. I had the opportunity to visit the new location earlier this week:

 

I got the goose bumps when I walked into the space. Many of the elements that I worked on during my tenure as Architectural Interior Design Manager for Tiffany & CO were evident at the new Denver store. The Tiffany Blue split wheat leaf etched glass panel near the storefront and the use of mirrored and etched focal walls are reminiscent of elements featured at Plaza 66 Shanghai, Marina Bay Sands Singapore, Tiffany Printemps Paris, Tiffany Heathrow Terminal 3, London and Tiffany’s at Melbourne, AU –   projects that I worked.

And most particularly, a breathless moment came when I took in the color palette at the Denver Tiffany & CO‘s new store………because at a Design Review in 2008, I most reluctantly introduced a rebel color palette…..

VA at 555 Madison
This is me during my days at Tiffany 555 Madison.

Once a week the Tiffany & CO Architectural and Interior Store Design Division held a Design Review.  This meeting was mandatory and it was held early in the morning.   All Architectural Design Managers, Interior Design Managers and Construction Managers assembled – about 20 of us and a few Jr. Architects, standing around a long and wide work table that was surrounded by storage closets and drawers brimming with samples of every finish imaginable: stone, glass, fabric, wall covering… paint, etc.   Current project progress was displayed on cork board walls and professionally produced  4’ x 3’ color palette framed boards rested on huge easels. The framed boards weighed 50 lbs each and were there to remind us of the “approved” palettes and used for reference for all the store designs we were working on. The framed boards displayed samples of wood for casework, carpet, stone, fabric, wall covering, feature wall materials and paint colors –  all in the “approved” palette which consisted of 5 color ways:  plum, copper, espresso, “greige”,  and green/gray.  Might I say these color ways were reserved, conservative,  dark, and (sorry) old!

The purpose of Design Review was to discuss every project that was in the works, introduce new projects,  provide progress reports of construction, and design.  Also attending the meetings were our iconic leaders, the Group VP, Group Director, Design Director and Director of Architecture.  Each VP and Director would critique our work.  It was a stressful 3-4 hours for all of us.

Now you might be wondering, WHY in the world would little me take such a bold step to present a palette that deviated from the approved palettes so greatly? I was working with an Architectural Design Manager who developed a unique design document for an upcoming Tiffany Store in China. We wanted to position this store to fit within the chic market in Shanghai. I put together a palette box centered on the current copper palette, and it was nice…..but just not right. On a whim, I pulled together a box with fabric swatches in tints and hues of Tiffany Blue, some silvery light grays, and very pearly looking off whites along with glass and stone from our stock of samples… not a formal palette box, just snippets of color. The box was sitting on my desk off to the far side. My colleagues started to comment on it, they were interested! Everyone seemed to like it, as did my direct report, our Design Director. I went back and forth on whether to present this rebel color scheme at our Design Review.  One minute confident and the next sure of failure.  True, our new Group VP had encouraged us to “think outside the box” and be creative… but I was scared, and decided to play it safe presenting the “copper” palette at that meeting.  I had my copper color palette box all ready to go, but….early that morning our Design Director  came to my desk and requested that I present the “Tiffany Blue” rebal palette box. I was scared to death!

I mustered up all the courage I could and presented my rebal box with the Tiffany Blue color palette.  Around the big long, wide work table at that early morning Design Review, everyone stood stark still and you could hear the clock tick. The colors deviated greatly from any palette ever used at a Tiffany Store since 1837!! I will never forget the reaction from our Group VP, who…looked around the room, and taking in the big framed boards of 5 color ways, plum, copper, espresso, “greige”, green/gray….. asked me, “Virginia, how does your palette fit in with our standard color ways?” I could barely speak, my colleagues gulped, and then I heard myself reply, “It doesn’t……..”

Everyone at that meeting grew silent and that clock ticked loudly in my head now sure that I would be shamed and possibly deployed forever and ever.But then, after a long pause our Group VP said,“Thank goodness!… It’s fresh and new!…. I like it!” I think that was my most memorable moment working for Tiffany!

Just because our new Group VP liked the “Tiffany Blue” rebel palette box, did not mean that it was “approved” as a palette for Tiffany. But it was a beginning of the end of plum, copper, espresso, greige and green gray – at least for the time being. After working to bring the Tiffany Blue palette tighter, assembling actual samples of custom glass, feature walls, carpet, and all the elements that you can see in the new stores, it was presented by our Group VP to upper management for their consideration.   A detailed power point that featured store renderings and floor plans was included with the presentation.  The palette was ultimately confirmed as acceptable “for INTERIM” stores….meaning okay for use until we decide on something else! The first store to see this palette was Plaza 66 at Shanghai, completed in 2009. And now, 7 years later, it is still in use at the new Tiffany Denver location.  No wonder for those bees in my knees….. that was a bold step for little me!

The first Tiffany stores to feature the new color palette were projects that I managed, including Plaza 66 at Shanghai, Marina Bay Sands Singapore, Tiffany Printemps, Paris, Tiffany Heathrow T3, London and Melbourne AU.  How exciting!

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