The project encompassed developing the architectural concept, signage, and interior design for the new, 51,000 square-feet store. Special emphasis was laid on increasing the store’s visibility in the community, emphasizing the professional decorating services, and ensuring the consistency of the shopping experience between the retailer’s new website and physical store.
The initial design brief was to address the changed character of the neighborhood where the original store and warehouse were located. Over the decades, the area had changed to industrial use and did not reflect the high-end attributes of Swann’s brand nor did it provide a high volume of prospective customer traffic on neighboring streets, which both negatively impacted the business.
The new, freestanding store is located in a high-traffic area of an affluent neighborhood, and is housed in a self-storage facility which was transformed. The store’s layout and design accentuate the high-end value of the brand by focusing on the professional design assistance offered to clients.
The store’s façade reflects the traditional regional architecture and features large signage with the store’s name and smaller signage indicating the furniture, design and bedding focus of the outlet. The exterior design increased the visibility and perceived size of the store by increasing the height and width of the front façade and incorporating faux second floor architectural elements. A well-lit and inviting facade serves as a visual “beacon” to drivers passing in front of the freestanding building. An elevated central “tower” further increases visibility, especially at night, which benefits the store during long fall and winter evenings. The increased height of the façade in proportion to the floor size and depth makes the store appear larger without the expense of constructing a bigger facility.
The Swann’s brand is defined by its traditional style, comfort, and quality targeted at upper middle class customers, which is reflected in the store’s architectural concept and interior design. The interiors reflect the brand’s values through the high quality of fixtures and finishes. The store features custom, dark-stained wood-finish checkout counters and designers’ workstations. The centrally located design centre features cream-coloured wall cabinets with collections of samples, which complement the dark wood colour of the workstations. Unlike the remainder of the store, the design centre flooring consists of light-coloured carpeting, which additionally accentuates the affluent home-like experience.
Emphasising the added value of the decorating assistance, the customer’s journey begins at the design centre, located opposite the main entrance to the store. The centre’s layout showcases the colours, materials and textures available to clients seeking customised solutions, indicating this area’s function.
On the right side of the design centre, a series of merchandise-specific sections and two “studio” exposition areas for collections and room design concepts developed by the store’s designers are featured. The sections include living room, dining, accessories and accents, mattresses and bedding, entertainment, office, outdoor living, fine art, children’s, and rugs. The intended path loops around the store with several interruptions, including exposition islands and the studio spaces, which engage the viewers into exploring the merchandise.
The interior finishes and colours were selected to complement the merchandise and support the lighting design. The brown-stained concrete flooring with wax finish and brown, sage, red and cream painted walls complement the prevalent colour palette of the traditional, elegant furniture displayed throughout the store. The exposed, light painted ceiling structure and building systems disperse the light and illuminate the merchandise.
The stained concrete flooring matches the colours and textures of the merchandise as inevitable variations in coloring and small cracks are reminiscent of the warmth and beauty of rich leather upholstery, stained wood, and fabrics prevalent throughout the store.
MRD developed the store layout by taking into the consideration a fairly narrow, elongated floor footprint. The length of the floor allowed the architect to incorporate a high number of individual areas that focus on particular types of merchandise without overcrowding the sales floor. The path through the store is comfortable, logical and inviting while ensuring that the customers are exposed to the majority of the offered product lines. The merchandise is organised along the pathways, with traditional furniture displayed on the right and the transitional items displayed on the left. The bedding section features its own dedicated entrance to accommodate mattress shoppers, who tend to focus on the desired item and value the convenience of a quick access.
To further emphasise the focus on high quality and traditional, warm home design, the shoppers are greeted by a stone fireplace located on the back wall of the design centre, facing the main entrance. Aside from the prominently featured design assistance area, the most interesting elements of the client journey are the two studios. Each of the two areas include a square central space, which houses four individual room design displays located in each corner. Each dedicated room area may be further divided into smaller spaces showcasing particular interior design settings. Additional display areas are located outside of each corner. This layout idea allows for the creation of up to 16 individual “room” displays with a minimum amount of walls. Each “room” concept is credited to a store designer.
The lighting system incorporates track lights suspended off the ceiling’s structural elements along the customer circulation routes. The movable fixtures direct the light towards the merchandise, which prevents the glare from disturbing the buyers. MRD developed the lighting design to take advantage of up to 20% of the light coming from table and floor lamps displayed as merchandise. The ceiling lighting system utilises LED fixtures. The lighting design allows for the creation of more intimate settings within the large store through the use of shadows and highlighting selected pieces to re-create a typical “home-scape” environment.
In addition to track lights, the design centre features recessed downlight LED fixtures embedded in the ceiling, suggestive of a home interior. The design centre’s cabinets incorporate neutral-hued lighting for reviewing material and colour options. Selected merchandise display areas and studio spaces are also equipped with wall-mounted sconce fixtures with designs that match various merchandise styles.
In addition to the retail architecture consultant and interior designer Martin Roberts Design, the project team included general contractor Abby Developments and structural engineer Mike Marler, P.E./Engineering & Safety Consultants.
Photo credit: David J. White/White Photography
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