Honor to Frank Lloyd Wright

Originally built as the V. C. Morris Gift Shop in 1948, one of FLW’s few northern California projects has had multiple occupants over the decades. Its newest tenant that’s been in the space since fall 2017, Isaia menswear, honors and elevates the historic building

Isaia, San Francisco
Isaia, San Francisco

Client: Isaia
Architecture: Ferrari Architetti, Lochte Architectural Group (local architects), Page and Turnbull (preservation planners)
Interior design: Alberta Saladino
Furniture and lighting: on design and Italian vintage pieces from Esprit Nouveau gallery
Rugs: handmade by Illulian based on interior designer Alberta Saladino and architect Martino Ferrari drawings
Sculptures: Fragments by Michele Iodice
Photo credits: photo by Drew Alitzer, courtesy of ISAIA

The understated brick facade with its series concentric arched entrance has been a landmark presence at 140 Maiden Lane in downtown San Francisco. The series of interior ramps previewed the design concept Wright would later fully express at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, but on a smaller scale on the West Coast. The building had been vacant since 2015.

The iconic Naples-based luxury menswear company sought to incorporate display racks and shelving in tune with the stunning architecture, calling attention to and complimenting the building’s interior dramatic and elegant curves. The round openings and ceiling-mounted acrylic bubble-shaped lighting scheme remains intact in the 734 square meters space. Historic preservation requirements dictated many of the details, ranging from paint colors to wood finishes and lighting.

The architecture team was composed of Ferrari Architetti and Lochte Architectural Group, along with historic preservation specialists Page & Turnbull. Contemporary aesthetic interventions and outstanding examples of Italian modernism are seen throughout. Interior designer Alberta Saladino partnered with gallery Esprit Nouveau in Naples to find pieces that exist in harmony both with the Isaia aesthetic identity, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s original vision. “It was much like restoring a masterful piece of art to its glory, and giving it a new personality,” Gianluca Isaia, the company’s third-generation CEO, said in a statement.

Furnishings include a Jelly Pea sofa by India Mahdavi covered in a deluxe cotton velvet textile, welcoming Paolo Buffa midcentury chairs upholstered in Isaia’s signature bright red, and custom rugs by Illulian that were a design collaboration between interior designer Saladino and architect Martino Ferrari. Barovier&Toso brass and Murano glass floor lamps dating from circa 1960 further illuminate the retail showroom. The client and the design team commissioned artist Michele Iodice to create an installation called “Fragments” too.

Consistent with other Isaia boutiques — the company also maintains a brick-and-mortar presence in the U.S. in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, in addition to stores around the globe — the San Francisco shop houses a vintage Campari bar and red lacquered piano. The basement level, which is not required to follow historic preservation design guidelines, contains a dedicated space for Isaia’s bespoke tailoring. Thankfully, this beloved architecturally significant site is now in the hands of a brand that understands classic, timeless style.