What drew you to a career in architecture and design?
As a child, I designed play houses, gas stations and even airports. I never really considered retail design, but when I graduated from Columbia grad school in ’91, there was a recession, so I went to work for an architecture firm that did design work for The Limited. When the market recovered and many architects returned to designing high-rises and houses, I realized I loved retail design. It was great because some of the clients that followed were Sony, Disney and Foot Locker.
What retail design trend would you like to see become mainstream?
Personalization. From designing your own running shoes in the Nike Shanghai store to customizing the look of your laptop, consumers love to express their individuality. I would like to pursue how merchandising and the shopping experience can be made personal.
What trend do you wish would go away?
Glowing. The illumination of fixtures, floors, ceilings, seating, etc., can enhance an experience, but there needs to be more control and rationale for it. When I see an overuse of glowing objects, I think the designer just didn’t have any ideas left. Besides, how green can it be?
You do a lot of work globally, and you’ll be talking about retail trends in the Middle East at IRDC (Dallas, Sept. 23-25). What’s the biggest challenge in working in this region?
There’s been an explosion of retail and, with it, a desire for premium, first-class experiences. But the labor skills are low and resources are not readily available yet.
What’s your favorite summertime activity?
Going to our small weekend house out on Long Island and hanging out by the pool, creating drinks, like the blueberry basil mojito (try it – it’s incredible), cooking paella on the grill and talking about anything and everything with friends.
What’s the most exotic food you’ve eaten?
Live – not raw – shrimp and octopus in South Korea. I don’t recommend it.
What’s the best thing about living in New York?
Walking up Madison at night, looking at all the storefronts, and Central Park in the morning (no matter what season).
Trash day in August; the city really stinks.
At the end of the day, what’s still on your list to achieve?
I’ve learned to make crème brûlée, so now, I just have to win my Oscar and host SNL.
Sidebar: Stone’s top 3 store design elements:
- Visual merchandising -- “Strong product displays make the simplest retail spaces compelling and also clarify the shopping experience.”
- Lighting -- “Limitations on energy usage make it challenging, but we’re just scratching the surface on implementing the new technologies and controls out there.”
- The storefront -- “The most valuable piece of your real estate. Look beyond your sign and think about developing a tool kit of brand cues and messages.”