Sometimes you learn more by discovering what you don’t like than what you do. It helps you to narrow your focus and keeps you from getting overwhelmed by details. Today I found out what I like, and what I don’t like in retail design.
Our first stop was the Chelsea Harbour Design Center. I like skylights and spaces that are easy to find your way through. I like being able to see the showrooms from a central location, and I like good signage. I like being able to see furniture and large pieces of fabric and be able to browse through them quickly. I like having the prices displayed. We all have budgets, and no matter how deeply I fall in love with a fabric I will not be able to use it if it’s too expensive. Tell me how much up front so I don’t waste my time. I like free pencils. However, I don’t like shopping and running out to showrooms every time I need a piece of trim. I love reps who come to you, especially when they bring treats, and I love generous samples. Commercial design is more my style.
I like sleek furniture with clean lines.
I like pillows with feather fringe.
I love hand blown custom Italian lighting.
I like orange. (Sorry mom.)
Next we were off to observe retail design and identity at the fashionable shops on Oxford and Regent Streets. I hate crowds. I hate fighting my way into spaces. I hate loud music over a loud crowd. This was everything I hate about shopping. It was interesting, however, because all of this combined to make me more aware of my surroundings and what I felt comfortable with.
We stopped at Hamley’s, a toy store. This place is loud and obnoxious. It is sensory overload, and I imagine it is wonderful for business. It felt like a Las Vegas for kids and had all the charm of a casino. The kids were going wild in the themed areas with employees demonstrating toys at every turn. I’ve been to FAO Schwartz in Caesar’s Palace and it, in the middle of a casino, had a calmer atmosphere than Hamley’s. I don’t know how you could ever tell your kids no in a place like this. With the flashing signs and loud 80s music they could never hear you!
We passed this bakery on the street. The cakes made a stunning display.
Next we looked through Habitat, a home furnishings store. The interiors are sleek and tight, all in black and white. It’s a wonderful backdrop for their merchandise, which is high style at affordable prices. They’re going after the Ikea crowd. They even have a furniture line called “Utah Mod”.
This is a much more comfortable space to be in. The space was split into levels with stairs which gave you the opportunity to explore, and the higher you went the cheaper the prices got. Clearance items were up top, and on the highest level was a little coffee shop. You were rewarded for your climb.
We looked through Apple, which is cool no matter where you are. No other company has as cohesive a message and image than Apple, and no one is pushing modern design in the US with the same zeal. After all the years of Apple sales being hurt by the tight control they’ve always kept over their products is paying off.
Many of the stores we were supposed to observe we couldn’t find in the crowds. I’ve never seen so many people in one place in London. The Tube felt like an oasis after this. I hate crowds, I hate the heat, I hate being pushed, and I hate traffic. I also hate pickpockets. It was somewhere in this mess that my watch was stolen.
Our last stop, out of desperation, was Coffee Nation for a Summer Berry Twister. Coffee Nation was loud and busy, but it was air conditioned and had soft sofas to lounge on. I love that you can sit around and read a book or surf the internet without feeling rushed.
Today I definitely learned what I love, and hate about retail design and the shopping experience.
5 months ago