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Bloomie's Moves Into Home Away From Home

Lifestyle: The show goes on at Fashion Island, as the new store of housewares and furnishings puts out its welcome mats today.

March 15, 1997|KATHY BRYANT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The stage is set, and the house is full.

And that's because the management at Bloomingdale's Home Store--whose curtain goes up today in Newport Beach--is well aware that many people think of shopping as theater.

Now for the audience.

"People are sophisticated about what they want," says Tony Spring, senior vice president of home furnishings for the 22-store chain.

Glossy home magazines, fantastical interior design books and niche catalogs hawking everything from garden gnomes to crystal domes have made consumers picky.

And what they want is an event.

David Hammond, vice president and fashion director for home furnishings, housewares and tablecloths, agrees. "We feel that this market is extremely forward, interested in anything happening that's hot and new. So we have to be on top of things."

He says the '60s are back with a vengeance--and color is the keyword.

"Color palettes are very bright, very hot, very '60s," he says. "I had dishes designed exclusively for Bloomingdale's that are hand-painted in Italy in citrusy colors. What is especially interesting about the line is the different shapes: triangles, flower shapes, little dessert and sandwich plates, raised relief on the large platters."

These bright colors will be the stars until late August, says Hammond, when the theme will switch to Metro Lounge, in keeping with the New York Bloomingdale's famous seasonal changes and massive visual productions.

Metro Lounge "will have a different coloration, a different feel, like moss green and mushrooms browns, grayish blues but still a flashback to the '60s with martini drinking, cigars. There will be animal prints and ceramics with gold highlights on them," Hammond says.

Hammond, who just came back from a worldwide trip looking for inspiration for his designs, sees his dishes coordinating with traditional Fiestaware, Picasso dishes and, specifically brightly, colored frosted acrylics.

"Frost is a very hot thing at home right now. Whether it's black, metal or even acrylic, it looks very fresh and new," he says.

Sixty-five percent of the housewares found in Bloomingdale's is exclusive to the store, with around 30% exclusive in the other departments.

Looking from housewares across the atrium to linens, you can spot the coordinating bright colors in place mats, napkins and towels.

And that is unique about this store's location. Because it was originally a series of shops built on the top floor of Atrium Court at Fashion Island, the 67,580-square-foot Home Store in Newport Beach is circular, with a light wood floor leading from department to department, much like Dorothy's Yellow Brick Road.

"The building was designed using the curvature of the walls and floors," says Kim Van Natta, Home Store manager. "We have 23 colors on the walls, from sienna red to blue and lots of different floors from slate and marble to carpeting. Everything is asymmetrical, with curves and angles."

Van Natta refers to the departments as "soft shops" that show, in their own environments, designers such as Tiffany and Co., Calvin Klein Tabletop, Christofle Silver and Calphalon Professional Cookware.

In the cookware department, Jamee Ruth, who has worked in the culinary field for 15 years, will be on hand daily giving out cooking ideas and cooking herself. Local chefs will also give free food-preparation demonstrations. Eating is part of the bargain.

Other touches include interior designers on staff, trained specialists in every shop, a bridal registry, TV monitors showing instructive videos, in-store monogramming for linens and stationery and two rest areas with chairs and magazines for those who need to regroup before resuming retail detail.

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Prices range from the designer end (some bed ensembles top $1,500) to a moderate range, with promotional items as little as $10.

"Into the Blue" is the store's opening theme.

"Over the years we have been very successful selling blue products," Hammond says. "Whether it is blue patterned dinnerware or blue glass, we find that blue is a reoccurring theme in the home, so we decided to do a whole blue, fashion direction this spring. We'll have lifestyle settings using all the blue that we sell," Hammond says.

The Home Store will open with a major sale, with most merchandise reduced in price.

"This is such a pretty store," Van Natta says. "You can hear the water from the fountain down below, as well as the music from the piano."

All of which just adds to the store's concept of shopping as theater, with all the accessories in supporting roles.

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