Design Holding’s New York Flagship Shows Off Italian and Danish Interior Classics — and New Hits, Too

Exploring the new Design Holding flagship on the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and 31st Street means taking in a lot, but it’s not too much.

With its prominent location, embellished original exterior frame and nine-foot tall windows, the Design Holding flagship for interior design and decor is a standout in the Rose Hill section of Manhattan, distinguished by its high concentration of home stores.

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Spread over the flagship’s two floors and 25,000 square feet is a rich mix of furniture, kitchen and indoor and outdoor lighting — an array of new and innovative pieces as well as iconic pieces that have lived on for decades. For example, there’s the classic “Artichoke” pendant lamp designed in 1958 by the legendary Poul Henningsen from Copenhagen and manufactured in Denmark by Louis Poulsen. It’s glass-leafed design creates a diffused glare-free lighting effect said to flatter people’s skin tones. Perhaps for Gen Z, there’s the recently introduced “Bilboquet” table lamp designed by Philippe Malouin and manufactured by Flos. It’s composed of two cylinders, one topped by a shiny magnetic sphere that acts as a joint and allows the upper cylinder containing the light to be adjusted to direct the beam any which way. It’s clever and practical, and named after a very old French game involving a ball tied to a stick and a concave plate.

The Louis Poulsen and Flos lighting collections are on the second floor, along with the Arclinea kitchen brand.

The well-known B&B Italia furniture brand occupies the bulk of the main floor. B&B Italia has been on the site for years with its own store, and the floor has not been redesigned for the flagship, with the exception of creating the staircase and including the Maxalto furniture to the main floor, toward the rear. Maxalto has a separate entrance. But to create the multibrand flagship, Design Holdings had to take over some other space in the building, in addition to preserving the B&B Italia area. The exterior is also the same as it was, though there is new signage. A third furniture brand, the understated Azucena, is spread around the flagship.

All six brands are all part of the Milan-based Design Holding’s portfolio of luxury home collections.

The flagship setting feels industrial, with the nine-foot windows affording wide views into the interior and lots of light, exposed ductwork, charcoal-colored columns and walls and stone tiling on the first floor.

B&B Italia on the first floor of the Design Holding flagship
B&B Italia on the first floor of the new Design Holding flagship.

Upstairs, it’s Design Holding’s “world of lighting.” The setting has a brighter, taupey palette, and a concrete resin floor throughout lending a unifying effect to the lighting and kitchen brands. Overall, level two evokes a more avant garde and muted feel than what’s below. The floor’s custom-designed metallic mesh screens gracefully separate the brands, and the outdoor lighting products are smartly showcased amid tall grass installations and planters.

The flagship also houses a sophisticated B&B Italia lounge set between natural outdoor lighting displays from Flos and Louis Poulsen, and a private space for architects, developers and interior designers to meet with clients, draw up contracts and customize products, in addition to the flagship’s other function — to attract the general public for shopping.

Louis Poulsen lighting on the second floor of the Design Holding flagship.
Louis Poulsen lighting on the second floor of the Design Holding flagship.

“We wanted to share the melting pot attitude of New York City where everyone and everything can blend together holistically so we went to the essence of the iconic brands, highlighting their DNA and proposing a common ground that could host and enhance the design codes of each identity,” said Piero Lissoni, the architect and designer of the second floor of the flagship.

“Designing this store required making a big commitment to the client. It wasn’t the easiest experience,” acknowledged Stefano Giussani, chief executive officer and partner at Lissoni New York. The challenge, he explained while attending a media preview of the store Thursday, was creating an environment that reflected the Design Holding aesthetic in a large space while also enabling the individual brands to project their own style and personalities.

“We really studied the identities of each brand,” he said. While the space enables the brands to project, there is also an impression of easily “blending” together under the one roof, rather than interfering with each other, he suggested. Part of creating the second level space, he added, involved “combining European details into a very New York space,” and bringing a brighter atmosphere for the lighting compared to the moodier darker ambience of the first floor.

“This location is amazing and very unique. Each brand has its own space. It’s a very selective approach, but they’ve done a very good job creating a harmony,” said Alberto Da Passano, CEO of Fendi Casa, a joint venture with Design Holding. Fendi Casa isn’t among the brands represented in the new store but is looking for its own location in Manhattan, Da Passano said. “The Artichoke lamp is unbelievable. I bought two. They make the room. When you first come into this store, you see the Louis Poulsen at the entrance. It’s a big wow. The first thing you recognize is this icon.”

The celebrated Artichoke lamp.
The Artichoke lamp.

“All of the brands that you see here are quite different. Even though they all have different voices, you don’t get a headache,” said Oivind Slaatto, a designer for Louis Poulsen, the 150-year-old Danish brand. Louis Poulsen is widely represented in the U.S., including at Bergdorf Goodman, but by occupying approximately 5,400 square feet within the Design Holding flagship, it’s the brand’s first major New York statement.

Design Holding's Manhattan flagship incorporates the original B&B Italia space.
Design Holding’s New York flagship on Madison Avenue incorporates the original B&B Italia space.

“There is nothing like this in New York City,” exclaimed Gianni Fortuna, CEO of Arclinea, standing by the brand’s Thea extended kitchen island in a composite material resembling marble that’s highly durable and stain resistant. Hanging above from the ceiling is an extended stainless steel double-shelf hood. “It’s about the location and the mix of products. Here you can find the best of Italian and Danish design.”

The Arclinea kitchen on the second level of the Design Holding flagship.
The Arclinea kitchen at the Design Holding flagship.

“I find that everything presented in this space is done in a very balanced and respectful way,” said Roberta Silva, CEO of Flos, which occupies about 6,000 square feet, or 50 percent of the second floor. Initially, Flos was seeking space for an office/showroom, but opted for the Design Holding flagship. Flos created a cutting-edge lighting design room for clients to test and experience lighting effects.

Silva was showing Flos’ Snoopy table lamp designed by brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni in the ’60s, with a marble base and lacquered metal diffuser bowl, which is considered an iconic piece, and was inspired by the beloved comic book and cartoon character. There’s also the Castiglioni’s industrial-style, playful Toio floor lamp, which resembles a fishing rod topped with what looks like a car headlight.

“Every brand can show its identity and character. It’s Italian on one side and Scandinavian on the other. It’s different but complimentary,” Silva said. “Flos is not a particular style. It’s a mix of different styles. It’s a playground for great designers to push the boundaries.”

“This flagship has more of a selection of Flos than the Milan store,” added Malouin, designer at Flos, as he demonstrated the Bilboquet table light.

 Maxalto furniture at the Design Holding flagship.
The Maxalto presentation at the Design Holding flagship.

“Design is our core competence. We beautify your life,” said Daniel Lalonde, CEO of Design Holding, as he greeted those at the flagship preview. “We talk to the same consumer that buys Cartier watch, a Birkin bag from Hermès, or a Ferrari.” He believes those likely to purchase from an LVMH luxury brand share similarities with someone that would buy a B&B Italia Camaleonda sofa, the tufty seating system by Patricia Urquiola on display at the flagship.

Design Holding's CEO Daniel Lalonde
Daniel Lalonde at the Design Holding flagship.

He said that aside from consumers purchasing products from the Design Holding brands, the company does business curating upscale hotels, luxury retailers, residential and corporate offices.

“We manufacture. We don’t outsource,” Lalonde said. At the Design Holding factory located outside of Milan, “We have craftsmen making our products.…Our secret sauce is that we enable designers to develop beautiful products.”

Maxalto furniture inside the Design Holding flagship.
Maxalto furniture inside the Design Holding flagship in New York.