Type: Featherlite Retail Store
Location: Hyderabad, India
Area: 4500 sft
Photographs: Vishal Siddamsetty
If space is a canvas, one on which life enfolds, then retail spaces are a prima donna kind of canvas. A space where the product on display is the star, where space itself then takes a back-seat, mostly illuminating the goods while other times iterating as a showcase. The design of the Featherlite showroom tries to do just that, mostly illuminating the fine office-furniture and at other times transforming into a showcase that angles the goods. As a brand that deals in top of the line fine office furniture with a scientific bent, as a brand that believes in innovating work-spaces, the firm required a retail space that complements its philosophy.
The design concept of the Featherlite retail store in Jubilee Hills imbibes the concept of ‘Hygge’. ‘Hygge’ symbolizes a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. It refers of mental satiety and a feeling of security. In design, it translates to a pleasing sensibility with clever planning, zoning and a subtle palette of colors that provide clarity with great alacrity.
Furniture retail stores tend to be either crowded where the latest merchandise are displayed haphazardly for the hurried customer to choose quickly or are experience zones where every scenario is recreated in enclosed zones, in this case the customer ends up walking in and out of already created spaces leaving little room for a macro-view or even creativity. In the first case crowded furniture can be extremely over-whelming while in the second case there is no room for an individual’s own thought. When we began designing this retail store for the leading office furniture manufacturer from India we drew inspiration from the brand’s philosophy. As a brand that focuses on quality and conviviality, it is one that brings the air of gentle friendliness into a workspace instead of divisions and rigid hierarchy. The quality of a friendly working environment echoes with the notion of ‘Hygge’. ‘Hygge’ is a Danish and Norwegian word; it is a concept that is the defining characteristic of the Danish culture, a concept that makes them so refreshingly happy and progressive. We could do well to embrace the feeling of ‘Hygge’ in our workspaces, our homes, our leisure spaces if not in our lives!
Translating the feeling of ‘Hygge’ into a workspace, especially a store that makes the essential components of a workspace meant that we had to deal with having to display the company’s entire range without choking a customer with information or even playing it cool by enclosing too many spaces and displaying ready scenes. We began designing the 4500-odd sq ft of space by first breaking down walls. The floor was used as an office space earlier with cabins, executive rooms, conference rooms and workstations. After dismantling the walls we opened up windows letting in light and ventilation into the entire space. An open-office system brings much creativity to workspaces and the constant buzz is supposed to improve the brain’s plasticity and hence activity. A fact that makes writers write better, artists draw better and therefore choose Starbucks or other coffee shops to let their creative juices flow. The opening up of spaces was then followed by a tedious and meticulous planning zoning phase where we deliberated over the company’s collection and how to zone the furniture into the space. This was the most crucial part as we wanted to have an optimum balance of putting out the furniture available while creating zones that are not too enclosed. We then came up with a couple of full-height partitions to set the tone and some low-height partitions at four-feet height to punctuate spaces adequately.
The rapid rise of break-out office furniture in corporate offices has made furniture manufacturers launch innovative furniture ranging from pods to discussion sofas to interesting pouffes that allow for a more relaxed and vibrant work-culture, one that has been proven more productive time and again. Displaying these products in the retail store also add to the ‘Hygge’ quotient of the store. The entrance lobby of the store overlooks a green terrace and makes for an inviting experience to the customer. A brief show-window or shop front highlights a few products and also provides a glimpse of the entire store. The front portion of the store houses a discussion space, an experiential zone where an outline of the products and projects can be provided to the client. The middle zone houses workstations that are flanked by chairs, breakout furniture and automated standing tables. The last zone of the store contains the more formal executive tables, discussion pods, and allied products sold by the store. Making a neat fit the layout is planned to bbe sustainable allowing for a more flexible display.
Following through with the ‘Hygge’ concept, the entire store is covered with warm materials like carpet and wood using glass to offer transparency between spaces and subtle colors, pleasing textures to add to the engaging quality of the space. The full-height partitions are swathed with denser textures while the low-height partitions are splashed with a pearl-shine finish paint texture. Wooden art-e-facts subscribing to the wabi-sabi feel of the space remind one of the beauty that is brought by little pieces of life that are allowed to age and change with time. Keeping the company branding more light the product is brought to the forefront making the space both classy and fabulous. Lighting is used to highlight specific products, bringing some to the forefront and allowing others to step back setting a story in the space. The design elements are kept to a minimum allowing the product to shine and take the center-stage. The store design aims to highlight the merchandise and not over-power, it essentially serves as the backdrop to the office furniture it holds.
Darker grey-colored walls coupled with a concrete wall create a more formal ambience as they envelop the rear zone of the store. This setting serves as a perfect ambience for more posh and formal executive furniture. A more solid low-height planter is introduced in this zone to bring forward the furniture and showcase the more technical aspects of each unit. The more playful breakout furniture that includes PODS for meetings, collaborations, independent work, phone calls, more ergonomic seating and other innovative work-desks punctuates the gravitas of the executive furniture. The break-out space furniture also add splashes of color and lightness to the space. Some seating with dynamic displays are accounted for to facilitate more engaging discussions. The café furniture is emphasized as a wall element as the light-weight café chairs are enclosed in a metal grid. The placement of this furniture on the wall adds a quality of vertical dynamism to the space.
Designed and executed with the tenets of sustainability in perspective, the project seeks to be a perfect backdrop for the functioning of the store adding a sense of euphoria balanced by a salubrious dose of functionality. It pursues the concept of ‘Hygge’ and demonstrates the feel-good vibes that could well make its way into the Indian workspace.