THROUGH THE YEARS, Birkenstock has been linked to hippies, tie-dye, peace, love and happiness. So when the U.S. division of this German footwear retailer employed Twenty Four"Seven Marketing Bloc Inc. to design its San Francisco flagship store, creating a signature style that was less 1960s and more millennium topped the agenda.

"Birkenstock has a broad market and one of the key challenges was to update its image," says Rebecca Houston, creative director and partner at Portland, Ore.-based Twenty Four"Seven. "The granola image comes across a little bit funky and Birkenstock wanted a sophisticated feel. A store that is tranquil, emphasizing natural elements."

Authenticity of materials was key in implementing the design. "Not using toxic finishes was a big one for them," says Houston, regarding Birkenstock's design charge. To comply with the company's request, water-based finishes were used on woods rather than lacquer-based finishes. Natural maple, used throughout the store, was stained as opposed to painted, allowing the grain to show through. A clear finish similar to the wood treatment was applied to all metal structures.

Combining these natural materials with calming blue tones in conjunction with the exposed ceiling and dropped lighting gives customers a feeling of openness and serenity. "We designed this store so the target audience would feel at home," says Houston. "The store steps back and lets the customer take it in. It lets the consumer wander through the space."

However, too much openness could be problematic if the space feels overwhelming to customers. "Birkenstock has a huge product range, so the store was deliberately broken into sections to showcase a product group in a visually manageable way," says Houston. To combat the large space, boutiques made of powder-coated black steel I-beam frames with glass panels were created. Within these boutiques, clothing and other products are displayed. Also breaking up the space are wall sections made of maple to display shoes, while at counter height a glass-top, cork-lined display case showcases accessories.

"This store is pretty sleek and streamlined," says Houston. "It serves as a backdrop for the products."

Sleek structures made of maple with a teal transparent stain can be found lining the front room of the store. Attached to the columns are brushed aluminum and lumasite sconces. Below these light sources are three internally lit vitrines holding, from top to bottom, lifestyle images, products and framed brand statements.

The main focal point of the store, the true hub, is the cashwrap. This structure serves as the nucleus, drawing customers' eyes up toward Birkenstock's backlit mission statement hanging above. This central unit ties the store's design elements together by using the same natural elements found throughout. The chest of the unit is maple, while metal arms reach out to clasp the blue mosaic tile top to the seemingly floating body. "You're naturally drawn to it," says Houston.

Contact: Christine Martz, pr and marketing manager, phone, 1.503.222.7999 or info@twentyfour7.com.