Within the course of two months, Bill Amberg Studio designed and installed a 280 sqm bespoke leather floor for Selfridges new men’s shoe department. Here, we reveal how we did it.
Opened in 2012, at over 15,000 square feet and featuring over 250 brands, the Selfridges men’s shoe department is one of the first of its kind in Europe. The entire department is made up of a series of smaller spaces for the different brands and styles within a custom designed area for each. As well as a space for pop-up events and showcases, two salons offer specialist services. One salon is dedicated to driving shoes and one for made-to-measure shoes. Together with the team at Selfridges, the Bill Amberg Studio designed and installed a unique bespoke leather floor for the made-to-measure shoe salon.
The design of the floor focuses on the idea of ‘leather on leather’ – the floor being made of the same materials as the soles of a gentleman’s shoes. The project was an interesting challenge for Bill and the design team as the client was very specific in their decision to opt for a leather floor. Although we have installed a leather floor in a variety of interiors, this space would see an exceptionally high footfall. Therefore, in the first stages of the process, it was crucial to select a tough and highly durable leather. Taking inspiration from the concept of English modernity, an English vegetable pit-tanned sole leather seemed ideal. Sole leather comes from the hardest part of the hide and can become very dense when the fibres are compressed. During the tanning process, the hides are hung individually in a pit, rather than rotated in a drum; a process that allows the fibres of the hide to firm. Similar to the qualities of a good shoe, this makes the leather pliable to the extent that we can work with it, yet flexible enough to offer the type of durability required for a floor. The final touch is a beeswax finish that gives the leather an elegant lustre.
Once the leather arrives at our workshop, the it takes on a character that is very similar to wood. Taking inspiration from wood flooring patterns, we opted for a parquet style pattern. In order to achieve various natural patinas from the soles of people’s shoes and the surface beneath the leather tiles, the floor was directly laid on site. This will enable the material to age naturally, beautifying further as it does.
Four years later, the Bill Amberg bespoke leather floor continues to add a refined and elegant touch to the made-to-measure salon and can be seen on the 1st floor of the department store. A brave and inspired choice for a floor, we wouldn’t expect anything else from Selfridges and are delighted to have been part of the exciting concept.