Retail Architect takes on karma.

Marcela's Yoga BoutiqueMarcel’s Yoga Boutique,

has turned out to be one of our most sophisticated designs. Recently completed, it was featured in the Old Town Crier, and we were also happy to answer some questions posed by Cindy Laidlaw, Principal of Laidlaw Group, the marketing communications firm who does the blog for the company who manufactures the shelving system. The content is especially informative for anyone thinking about a new retail project so I am posting some of it here along with links to the articles.

Question: Where and when did the idea for the studio start? Answer: Marcela came to me on the recommendation the local Small Business Development Center. As it turned out, my office is exactly across the street from her shop. Talk about Karma?

Question: What is your background? Answer: This is the bio that I use in many blog post. Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-Accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and has a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction.

Question: What was the vision of the project? Answer: Marcela had a vision that centered around the lotus flower. It is part of her logo and where we started to design. I liked the water element inherent in the lotus environment and aimed at suggesting this by the use of curved glass shelves as a feature in the shop. There is a mystique attached to the idea of yoga and one way of visually representing the calm is with open space – not so easy in a tiny shop. By merchandising mainly the walls we were able to define really nice site lines that terminate in beautiful merchandise displays while at the same time maintaining the “karma” of open space.

Question: What inspired the design? Answer: The lotus flower.

Question: In addition to Rakks, what other materials were used? Answer: We used a rustic piece of wood, with the shape of the tree still in its profile, to anchor and complete the feature wall. The effect is very organic.

Question: How long did the project take? Answer: It took about 4 months.

Question: What were the installation challenges of the space? Answer: The building is old and the exterior walls are plaster directly on furred out brick. They were totally out of plumb, to the extent that, in order to use the wall mounted Rakks standards, we had to build a drywall stand out in front of the existing wall.

Question: What is the history of the building? Answer: The building is in the historic district of Old Town Alexandria, VA.

Question: Where can I find out more about the products on display? Answer: Marcela’s Yoga Boutique

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Retail Architect: billboards store design

Retail architect are always looking at design features that can make a store stand out, or differentiate, from its neighbors in the mall scape, leading to a design idea that I may, or may not, have mentioned previously; namely mall storefronts are being treated like billboards. Compare, for example, the type of merchandising that is going on in the Aldo store with that of the Buy Paris Collection below. On a practical level this may not be a very fair comparison as Aldo has rallied all of its substantial store planning resources around supporting and marketing their brand, while the shop in the Paris airport is marketing multiple brands, probably with considerably less resources. That said, this discussion is academic and I am using the contrast between the two shops to demonstrate a design technique.

Clearly, Aldo has used every inch of wall space to deliver a marketing message about their product. It is a message being delivered to virtually every potential shopper with a view of the store no matter where that shopper happens to be located. The desire to accomplish this is nothing new. The installation of billboard size images on every available inch of visible wall, on the other hand, is a fairly new trend. I expect it is only a matter of time before the message, actually creeps onto the ceiling, and I am sure examples of exactly this can easily be found.

By comparison, the Buy Paris Collection casts its marketing net into a much smaller visual pond simply by dint of scale. Certainly good design practice is employed. The high contrast between the white illuminated sign on the black background along with the brightly colored banner are attention grabbing features. The interior signage, illuminated graphics and nicely displayed merchandise all follow the store planning rules, leading me to ask; is one of these techniques more effective that the other?

The question is one of relevance. The retail environment, always competitive, is ever more so now. Pressured on one side by online competition and the other by indirect competitors for the attention of the same customer base, retailers are feeling compelled to enter the context of entertainment shopping. It is a fluid environment where relevance is everything.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Retail Architect: pattern, color and scale that delivers a marketing message

BBW store
I took this photo of a new Bath & Body Works store in a recently renovated local mall because the project is instructive on several levels. First there is no doubt about who the retailer is. The name is perfectly highlighted on the front of the main entry fixture, again above the wall display, and of course on the storefront sign, there but not shown. Some landlords try to limit the number of times a retailer can repeat their logos in the line of vision. As a Retail Architect, I find that, recently, this practice has been giving way in favor of more flexible design guidelines, possibly in response to tighter retail markets. Either way, repetition is good for the brand.

This project is about more that the name though. It is about delivering a marketing message, which is done here by the clever incorporation of text into the very context of the store. Let’s consider the context first. The checked wall covering is extremely busy and could have, in a different application, gone totally wrong. It is working here because the high contrast both attracts attention and supports the message in terms of scale. In fact, it functions as a connection between the blocks of small merchandise and the actual text messages which are all offset in large solid color fields. These solid color blocks show up as more that just backdrops for signage. They are used in the back of displays, as plain color coded markers used to define categories of merchandise, and even as fat text turned into color blocked display fixtures. The result is interesting and completely readable.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Unbrand Store Designs

Is this the face of the "Unbrand?"

If you are a sometimes visitor to this site you may have seen me ponder the impacts of “unbrand” in previous posts. With this recent article on “AdNews” I find myself again bestirred on the subject. The gist of the article is that “Unbrand” is a “Movement” initiated by Gen. C (connected) values, resulting in a shift in market focus from the designer to the designee. When considered in the context of the currently “logocentric” shopping place this shift could, in the design sense, prove to be profound. In short, how does/will/should an “unbrand” look? The temptation to present the obvious was too strong, leading me to alter the photo above to match the idea. Of course, no one has actually come to me and said, “I am opening a new store. I will be selling shoes. The store does not have a name. Please design the prototype.” That does not, though, stop me from trying to envision such a shopping experience.

toys dress

carOr maybe stores should rely on large format graphics and photos with generic labels to identify their products. It is, after all, how it is done on http://etsy.com. Either way, there are no answers here, just explorations. You will find the article here: AdNews: THE ADNEWS NGEN BLOG: The challenge of ‘Unbrand’.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Store Design: Materials

I was researching another project when I ran across these book stores. I was looking for examples of how different building finish materials can change the perception of merchandise quality in a store design, and as these views are void of brand signs, they allow for a fairly objective comparison on a store planning level as well. The examples were good enough to turn into an article as follows:

Store 1
Store 1

Store 1 – This first store reminds me of Strand Bookstore in New York City, locally famous for used books, which should not come as a surprise as the plastic on the windows, mismatched fixtures, cheap but effective fluorescent lighting and existing brick walls and wood floors all suggest, not only extreme economy, but also sustainability. The chairs and wide aisles suggest a comfortable and possibly entertaining shopping experience. In NYC this equals “shabby chic.” Anywhere else it risks being just shabby.

Store 2
Store 2

Store 2 – The actual fixtures used in this store, likely high quality painted wood, display the merchandise for maximum advantage and provide storage as well. Nevertheless, carpet and acoustic tile floors and ceilings are strictly utilitarian, as is the lighting, which is adequate but stylistically dated as it is used here. The monotone, high foot candle light level removes the possibility of any particular focus or feature areas, as does the “many evenly spaced rows” type of layout. This ambiance is all about volume and possibly crosses over to discount.

Store 3
Store 3

Store 3 – This appears to be a high profile, historic, urban environment that is possibly a destination unto itself. Efforts have been made to help the store fixtures disappear into the location. Wood shelving and display tables match existing architectural trim and carefully placed invisible light sources outline perimeter merchandise walls artfully tucked under the balcony. Like dancers in a grand ballroom, table top displays nicely present the merchandise to main floor shoppers. A polite, public mood prevails.

Store 4
Store 4

Store 4 – This is another example of how existing buildings can drive the retail ambiance of a space. Exposed structure, skylights, stone walls, and distressed concrete floors identify an industrial loft type environment made relevant by the addition of colorful art lights, and a bit of modern ceiling material. Tall store fixtures made of construction grade wood emphasize the soaring ceiling height and merge into the prevailing aesthetic. One might be surprised to find that this trendy store, like store 1, is also selling used books.

Store 5
Store 5

Store 5 – Perhaps the most unique of the stores, this is defined first by the the top to bottom wood finishes and then by the contemporary parkitecture, including the shelving units carefully incorporated therin. Visions of everything from Hoss Cartwright’s Ponderosa to Bilbo Baggin’s Hobbit Hole are conjured. The place practically invites the shopper to enter a mysterious world of fantasy.

Store 6
Store 6

Store 6 – Finally we have the shop of no finishes, except of course the books, representing the weighty world of gold bound illuminated manuscripts and classic volumes read and reread over time in days when they had more than just historic value. This is the revered library showing up in Patrick Rothfuss’, The Name of the Wind.

Finally, it is of interest that, in spite of differing book sizes, the shelf heights have been maintained to form continuous horizontally aligned rows of books in all of these stores.

All photos on this site belong to the author, are used under Creative Commons or with permission from the photographer. The source may normally be found by following the link attached to the photo.

Bridget Gaddis, of Gaddis Architect, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Crossing Over the Line of Confusion

This is an instructive exercise on two levels. First lets consider the impact of merchandise placement in the black and white photo. It is quickly apparent that the main show, directly in the line of view as a customer enters or passes by the store, is an indecipherable patch work which says little about the products being sold. Also, there is actually some secondary “visual cognition”going on as our eye looks for clarity and finds it in the higher contrast which appears on the side walls where individual items or groups of items have been carefully framed by the surrounding architecture. This can be an effective technique when used in the right location; nevertheless assigning center stage to a confusion of merchandise is risky and could easily send customers searching for more understandable views in an adjacent store.

There is more to this particular story though as the second lesson is about what happens when highly saturated color is added to the mix. Suddenly what was a wall of confused merchandise becomes a high visibility focal point standing out in and being framed framed by the mid-tone world. Now the wall of merchandise has attracted attention sufficient to cross over the line of confusion and land squarely on the side of interest. Very interesting indeed.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Store Front Design: setting up a shopping experience

It is such fun to watch excellence in action, no matter where it happens to be found. Even better if it happens to show up in ones particular area of interest. By changing it often, Dash’s treats this store front design like a blog, allowing it to attract the interest of locals as well as visitors. I walk out of my way just to see what is up. I will be shopping there, thanks to the window, the next time a need a gift for the men in my family. So what makes it work?

To start with, the natural architecture, already oozing with quaint, is given a decidedly turn of the century Austrian flair by dint of the permanently placed gargoyles and wreathe on the transom shelf. Add the multi panned window arrangement and the place might be right out of a BBC movie set; all the better to conjure visions of high quality haberdashery. Add the attention grabbing black and white planter below the window, which by the way is able to counter the reflections on the glass, and then finish the presentation off with super organized visual merchandising, including the message decals, end view of the suits, and pointed ties all lined up in neat little rows like a line of soldiers on parade. The place not only delivers a really strong retail message, it sets up a shopping experience.

Bridget Gaddis of Gaddis Architect is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Retail Store Design: Avoiding the “Tchotchke Effect”

As a retailer, the last thing one wants is for their merchandise to be associated with the terms like worthless, disposable, or tacky. Yet, if it looks like tchotchke because of the manner in which it is presented, that is exactly what is communicated.

The primary remedy for the tchotchke effect is to recognize that the problem exists in the first place. I have seen business savvy start ups and experienced retailers alike end up with stores resembling tourist traps. The effect has many causes. Things like high inventory levels, lack of storage, and mixed product lines are physical issues that, in my experience, are easy to fix. Psychological blocks, though, resulting in denial, can undermine store performance. Causes aside, if the symptoms are not completely evident from the photo above, here are a few main ones: over crowded merchandise, no departmental definition, no visual focus, mixed and non matching store fixtures, cheap lighting, exposed equipment… the list goes on.

Restraint is the operative word when it comes to avoiding the tchotchke effect. After that, there a few visual rules for effective retail store design that work.

1. Create a design concept.

2. Use only store fixtures that stick to the concept.

4. Place key merchandise at eye level.

3. Vary the scale.

4. Leave some empty space.

5. Create a feature.

6. Repeat in an organized way.

7. Color coordinate.

8. Use props and graphics to visually reinforce your product.

Bridget Gaddis of Gaddis Architect is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.