Perfectly imperfect: Manteau Noir

In a corner of the idyllic country town of Daylesford, Victoria, lies destination homewares store Manteau Noir, filled with an eclectic range of treasures, from luxurious Italian fragrances and artisan stoneware to handmade cotton notebooks from India.

According to owner Victoria Varrasso, who opened Manteau Noir six years ago, the store is the physical manifestation of everything she loves – ethically sourced products and beautiful textures crafted with care. It also stocks Varrasso’s own clothing brand of the same name.

“I wanted it to be a space where people could step off their world and walk into a space that was supportive, transformative and beautiful. It encapsulates the things I really love – all-natural materials are used within the space,” Varrasso explains.

“There’s a nod to vintage and antique stores of the past. I travel to Paris and Tokyo quite regularly, so I’m quite inspired by those two particular places.”

Manteau Noir was transformed into a dark, moody treasure trove two years ago by Carole Whiting Design. According to Varrasso, she decided to collaborate with Whiting so she could marry her own “old-world aesthetic” with Whiting’s more modern sensibilities. The aim of the design was to keep it elegant without “trying too hard”, so the products could shine against the navy blue walls.

Manteau Noir is now a finalist in the Workspace and Retail category in the 2020 Colour Dulux Awards.

“The innovative aspects of this design lie in the balancing act of providing a very dark space with all major surfaces cloaked in a deep navy colour that allows the product (which itself is largely dark in tone) to sit proudly within the landscape,” explains Whiting.

“The space is small and sits adjacent to a larger retail offering, so it was important to create a separate environment that gave the impression of independence. It had to incorporate a wet area, graphic space and nearly 90 product variants, as well as provide some negative space to prevent it looking cramped.”

Manteau Noir is inspired by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, where things are beautiful as they are, says Varrasso.

“Things don’t have to be finished. They can be old and have patina; it’s an approach for loving things the way they are. Everything’s perfectly imperfect. It’s my philosophy for life really.”

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