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Style: how store design can inspire interior architecture

I seek and find design inspiration on all of my travels, be that on holiday with my family or when I journey overseas to visit clients. Certainly once a year though, I dedicate time to going on a comprehensive and immersive design trip. These expeditions in particular are opportunities for me to delve deeper into certain aesthetics, to broaden my design horizons and to both confirm and challenge my expectations of that location’s style reputation. This time last year, I wrote about my design trip to Scandinavia – Stockholm and Copenhagen in particular – but this November, I dived into the depths of New York city. Upon returning and reflecting on what I wished to bring to my journal, I felt that the most inspirational part of the entire trip was their approach to store design. A number of the retail spaces that I visited were immensely impressive and thought-provoking, and I was able to immediately envision how the interiors of these stores would translate to a British home.

New York is one of those places that has no one clear image that encapsulates its trademark ‘look’. Instead, it is all about scale, confidence, dynamism and eclecticism. It has a definite,  exciting vibe that I sense in many of its hotels, restaurants and stores, in a way that is very different to what we have in the UK. Here in Britain, we are indeed forward-thinking and highly creative with our interior choices, but it is so fascinating to go over the pond, for in The Big Apple, everything is simply so vast – in every sense of the word. The buildings are huge and the ideas follow suite. I visited many of New York’s characterful neighbourhoods, from the upper East side to Chinatown and the meatpacking district. This is so important in understanding all of the elements that make New York’s design what it is. From Soho House to Nobu, I spent time at some of New York’s most notable icons, and while I found them eye-opening, none of them had such an impact on me as one establishment – Club Monaco.

When I entered Club Monaco, I did not expect to be exiting almost half a day later. Afterwards, I felt as though I did not need to see much else. There were so many interesting design tenants that I knew I could bring to some of my schemes, from joinery design to their use of colour. They used shelving in such a creative way, and colour to achieve stark contrast within one room, as much as between several. In one area of the store there was an abundance of fresh white which was used next to soft grey, crystal chandeliers, nickel accents and ironmongery, and lots of mirrors. It was so luxurious. Likewise, downstairs, the basement showcased men’s apparel in a setting that reminded me of a gentleman’s club. They used black paint on the ceiling and white on the walls along with low-lit, moody lighting. The backdrop made the garments appear all the more exquisite. Even the staircases were objects of real beauty; the upstands were white and the treads were black, while the walls were white and the iron spindles were black – monochrome contrasts that felt anything but ordinary or déjà-vu. Club Monaco’s approach would certainly better suit a British townhouse or city dwelling as opposed to a cottage or farmhouse however. The trip really was impeccable timing as I am currently designing for a client’s grade I listed apartment in the heart of Bath. So many of the beautiful things I saw were relevant for this home. I am creating an amazing dressing room for her and a classic men’s study for him, both of which will certainly be informed by what I saw in New York.

New York is an obvious place to visit for many. It is indeed one of the world’s fashion capitals, and it is ubiquitous with art and iconic landmarks, but I wanted to view New York through a very different lens, and to look past the first few layers of glitz and glam to the true talent and art that lies beneath. During my time working for Ridley Scott, I developed a keen understanding and appreciation for how scale creates drama and fuels bigger ideas, and New York confirmed this for me, without doubt. When I returned, I visited Club Monaco in Sloane Square, and while it was a wonderful store, it just did not recreate what New York was able to achieve so fabulously. The same sense of scale was lost. In design, that is one of our greatest challenges, to recreate sentiments, memories and the atmosphere experienced in certain locations, and to do so absolutely convincingly. I look forward to taking what I saw in New York and bringing It to life, in all of its true glory, in the homes of my clients, and not to mention my own.

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