BEIRUT: Versace Home opened one of its flagship furniture and home accessory galleries in the Saifi neighborhood of Downtown Beirut this week, filling its two-room space with the brand’s hybrid of modern and elaborate neoclassical.
The furniture gallery opened in Beirut on the heels of a related project in the Downtown Solidere area to construct an apartment building exclusively furnished from Versace’s home collections. The luxury Italian brand is based in Milan and best known for its designer clothing.
“There are already successful Versace Home boutiques in Milano, New York, Los Angeles, Dubai and Hanoi, and Beirut is a natural next step for us,” Gian Giacomo Ferraris, chief executive of Versace, said in a statement.
Versace Home, which began in 1992, comprises two distinct collection themes: a highly ornate line that draws inspiration from classical and baroque art, and a contemporary line that dabbles in conceptual furniture design. Versace’s emblem, the head of Medusa surrounded by Greek frieze, features heavily in the designs, particularly in the dining wares.
Versace, located on George Haddad Street down the hill from Gemmayzeh’s Paul bakery, shares its street block with Fendi’s designer home gallery, and sits across from Saifi Village, where local high-end furniture designers like Nada Debs have set up shop.
It was a bold move to open an exclusive, designer furniture gallery in Beirut in the midst of an economic recession and political uncertainty. But Versace’s signature look fits well into local furniture tastes, which often favor highly ornamented, neoclassical designs, such as brocade upholstery, gilding and metallic fabrics and sculpted wooden molding.
The gallery’s launch party attracted dozens who came to view two spacious showrooms, the front room filled with painted china, silverware and a range of the 2013 collection’s more classical pieces.
The back room included a handful of contemporary items, including a couch made from rungs of multicolored brocades, which together looked like the psychedelic caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland – were it set during the Italian Renaissance.
Models in floor-length black evening gowns greeted the guests, who wandered through the showrooms sipping champagne and nibbling on caprese salad skewers.
Some of Versace’s more subtle designs included a sleek black leather couch and matching arm chairs free of the Baroque flourishes, animal prints and royal foulard patterns that characterize most of the collections.
The flatware – china plates, serving trays, gravy boats and tea sets – were individual pieces of art. Sea themes of coral and seashells adorned crockery in rich clay reds, blue and pinks; the Medusa emblem decorated plates in various interpretations, from sweet lavender and dramatic black and gold leaf; and further gold-leaf borders lined the more minimalist designs – though nothing in the entire gallery could truly be classified as such.
Indeed the 2012-13 collection catalogue showed a styling suggestion where an eclectic grouping of the plates are hung on a wall as artistic decoration rather than stored in a dining cabinet. Even the silverware was plated in gold.
Some of the more ostentatious furniture pieces included a golden yellow and white foulard patterned couch with gold fringe and a silk jacquard detail; a sideboard with winding baroque tendrils cut from its silver metal frame; and a chair from their modern collection that looked like three stacked throw pillows and a backrest made from a blue and purple print.
Small gift items covered the showroom’s table tops, such as crystal cigar trays and candy dishes, porcelain dishes and even plush towels and slippers.
As the Versace gallery opens to the public, interior designers are furnishing a 28-storey high rise Damac Tower under construction in Solidere exclusively from Versace Home. The residential tower will offer grand, furnished apartments to the elite from around the region.
“People living in Lebanon are extremely stylish and are familiar with global fashion houses and luxury goods brands,” said Ziad al-Chaar, from Damac Luxury, the Middle East franchise of Versace Home.
“The Versace Home boutique will provide an avenue for those wishing to extend their love of the fashion brand to their home decor.”