When John Christakos and Maurice Blanks were seeking an architect for the Portland outpost of Blu Dot, the modern furniture retailer they cofounded in 1997, Waechter Architecture caught their eye, and for all the usual reasons: they liked its work and its approach, and they believed their project would be a priority. They knew their instinct was correct when the firm’s founder, Ben Waechter, said that a single word guides every project he undertakes. “That word is clarity,” recalls Blanks. “It resonated with us because clarity is such an [integral] part of what Blu Dot is all about.”
Construction of the company’s Waechter-designed store (Blu Dot’s eighth shop) has begun inside a historic 1921 building in Portland’s Pearl District, and it’s slated to open in September. “The main space is made up of a beautiful grid of heavy timber columns,” Waechter says. He notes that the structure’s less beautiful yet essential features—its building core, a mezzanine, and a ramp—worked against the organized, quiet interior he’d envisioned. So he introduced a white oak floor and a “ribbon” (in the form of an airy white oak batten wall) that curves around the existing elements to create an environment that can be experienced as one unified space, or as four discrete ones. “The intervention creates a quiet backdrop while maintaining a sense of materiality and craft,” he says.
Blanks says that sensibility is important for the Portland shop. “Portland is a lot like our hometown, Minneapolis: there’s an appreciation for making things,” he says. “We picked the Pearl District because we love its industrial history, and then got lucky and found a great space with a great landlord. It doesn’t always work out that well.”