Blu Dot’s New San Francisco Store Is Model Of Adaptive Reuse

Design retailer's newest location is an example of sensitivity to local context, and a showcase for adaptive reuse and sustainable design.

Design retailer Blu Dot recently completed a major new showroom store at the foot of Potrero Hill in San Francisco. Created by reimagining and reshaping a pair of vacant buildings, the new, neighborhood-friendly adaptation offers a simplified, soft-modern backdrop for the Minneapolis-based manufacturer and designer of modern furniture.

Following its 2013 award winning design of a previous San Francisco retail location at 560 Valencia Street, Blu Dot design director Maurice Blanks and his visual merchandising team worked with the Office of Charles F. Bloszies FAIA to create the new Blu Dot San Francisco.

Blu Dot San Francisco

For its new location, Blu Dot selected a site at 99 Missouri which included the former home of Arch, a beloved graphics supply company. The Bloszies architecture-and-engineering team combined that space’s footprint with a former auto body shop next door, transforming the original concrete structures into a new envelope for Blu Dot’s store planners and interior designers.

Bloszies and Blu Dot organized the removal of superfluous bracing and internal walls to open up the interior, and eliminated a partially finished false façade at the corner. The team enlarged window openings to create an organized exterior rhythm and allow in more sunlight. Bloszies designed a board-formed concrete parapet extension to provide a uniform horizontal cap, creating a simplified modern profile.

“We also designed steel window frames popping out of the façade like oversized Tiffany windows, fashioned to echo the scale of industrial window openings found on nearby buildings,” explains Bloszies.

The building also boasts a 1,200-square-foot patio and something every San Franciscan dreams of — a parking lot. Inside, it was conceived to be “light, bright and airy.”

Blu Dot San FranciscoThe interior design, conceived with a minimal sensibility of an art gallery, serves as an armature in which to display Blu Dot’s product line. Floors are terraced to be flush with exterior grades at different levels, finished with unvariegated wood flooring or polished concrete. Interior fixtures are integrated with structural elements resulting in a simple, crisp interior setting, with walls painted white to function as background for the pieces on display. Plinths built on the interior side of the pop- out windows allow product displays at eye level for street side passersby.  

“Ever since we opened a store in San Francisco in 2013, the city has been a key market for us. When our lease was up in the Mission, it only made sense for us to go bigger and better in San Francisco,” says Maurice Blanks, Blu Dot cofounder. “Working again with Chuck and his team on the new store was seamless and the end-result is gorgeous. We love seeing longstanding, loyal clients in the new space and are enjoying meeting new friends and neighbors, all with the goal to fulfill our mission to inspire more creative ways of living through good design.” 

Blu Dot San Francisco
(Photos/Images: Mariko Reed / Courtesy of Blu Dot and the Office of Charles F. Bloszies FAIA)

“The goal of this transformation is to provide Blu Dot with an architectural expression consistent with its furniture design ethos, while at the same time ensuring that it suits the long-established industrial character of this part of the Potrero Hill district,” adds Bloszies. “In this way, Blu Dot ingratiates itself with its neighbors while creating a memorable, unmistakable home for the Blu Dot brand.”

In addition to its online shop, Blu Dot has retail stores in the U.S., Mexico, and Australia, with new locations slated to open by Spring of 2023.

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