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The New York-based Studio Galeón specializes in the design and curation of complete environments, encompassing aspects of architecture, interior design, and furniture. Founded by Lula Galeano in 2017, the studio’s foundation is built upon the expertise of its artisans, the importance of honest, natural materials, and a quest to harness for its clientele the joy and surprise that comes with the discovery of a new space.
Working across retail, residential, and office spaces, Studio Galeón has conceived a dynamic range of places including the pristinely contemporary Audemars Piguet showroom in East Hampton, the bright and playful Susan Alexandra boutique on Orchard Street, and most recently, the first-ever physical space for accesories maison Dagne Dover.
Following the boutique’s opening in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, Galeano spoke with Whitewall recently to share details about the studio’s concept for the space and its practice as a whole.
WHITEWALL: Tell us about your concept for Dagne Dover’s SoHo boutique. What was it like, being the first to imagine a physical space for a brand?
LULA GALEANO: For this project, we wanted to bring athleisure to a more streamlined level, and have an elevated and monotal canvas for their products, since their color line is so wide per season. The company’s ethos is organization, so the store layout is very straightforward and organized, with the scaffolding setting the rules. We picked scaffolding mainly because it is so synonymous and iconic with New York City, and the cake batter tone we painted everything softens the entire space. My goal was to elevate their brand and provide a concept design that can be replicated or adjusted to anywhere else.
WW: The architecture in New York’s SoHo neighborhood is both historic and quite recognizable in relation to its location. What was it like designing in this existing structure, were there any pros or challenges?
LG: It's an iconic SoHo space, but before our intervention, it was very much hidden. We uncovered the columns and framed it with scaffolding and linear lighting, took advantage of the tall ceilings and incredible window, which brings in great natural light that I love for retail spaces; it feels very open to the street. We kept the tin ceiling and painted the facade; you don't want to go over the rosettes and the iron detailing. The scaffolding works great with tall ceilings, and you can add one more row of product and still have a very open feeling.
WW: The boutique’s design also implemented some recycled materials. How did you approach ideas of material responsibility in this project and what role does sustainability play in your practice as a whole?
LG: It's very tricky to actually trace what is sustainable from what is not, with shipping, carbon footprint, material waste, who does the labor, and so on. My take on it is as much as you can do, push to do it. Don't use disposable materials that in 2 months will be waste, try to avoid doing a full build up for a "pop up" and if you can use natural materials that have minimum treatment much better.
For this store, I found this great small company, Smile Plastics, that recycles all sorts of plastics and fibers, and uses a "terrazzo" hard plastic made from yogurt cups that looks and feels incredible. You can even see the foil from the cups that shines and gives some sparkle to it. We used this all over, the space: on top of the scaffolding, the fixtures, pedestals, and they even use it as a backdrop for their shoots.
WW: In general, what kind of process goes into designing for a specific customer? How do you balance a collaborative approach that centers the client, while also ensuring your team has the freedom to execute their best work and instill the sense of surprise and discovery you’ve built your foundation upon?
LG: I actually enjoy that part, it's like dancing. Ultimately, whatever I'm building won't be for myself, so what the client has to say is very important, and I always listen to them first and keep them involved throughout. I don't push for things, and I'm not precious about my ideas or think whatever I think is more important that what someone else thinks. It's a constant conversation, a process I enjoy even if things don't end up where I wanted initially, and then I'm surprised at the outcome. I like collaborating more than anything. Architecture is a collaborative task, with clients, builders, fabricators.
WW: We’ve seen your work range from sleek and minimalistic to bright and colorful, depending on the space. Given the dynamic range in your portfolio, how would you describe your personal design style?
LG: I don't think I have a personal style because my ideas shift all the time and I can't stay in one lane. Also, my portfolio of projects includes private residential, retail, and hospitality, so I am often switching between design visions on a variety of scales and scopes. If I had to define the way I work, I would say unexpected and free? Atmosphere is what drives my design style, that is why it's so versatile probably. I think about the ambiance, what feeling I want to convey and that answer is usually different per project.
WW: What is something you’re always excited to include in a project?
LG: A surprise. And I like to make things, so as many custom pieces as I possibly can. For Susan [Alexandra]'s store, it was glass bricks and a fountain with a mosaic tile wall with a goddess who acts as a protective figure for the store.