Rough gems

As a reclaimed, bespoke look is taking the world of shop design by storm, both at the luxury end and in more humble contexts, Emily Pacey is right on the pulse of the latest in retail and restaurant spaces – with a sneaky glance at some office environments, too. Exposed bricks, hewn boards and original murals will take you far, it seems

The home-made aesthetic, nostalgia, cutesiness and the ever-growing use of bespoke artworks are major and arguably related themes in contemporary interior design. The reclaimed, distressed look suits a recession mentality, and the current taste for it originates with small start-up brands that are making a financial, environmental and aesthetic virtue of using reclaimed materials. The trend extends to luxury store interiors, such as in the new Hostem high fashion menswear store, designed by James Plumb. Briefed to create something unique, the consultancy designed an interior which features a church pew for a cash desk, hessian wall hangings and US trouble lights.

Other notable examples of the reclaim and reuse trend include Union Market, a food retail and dining concept occupying a former London Underground station in west London. It contrasts original listed Tube station features with antique donkey panniers, milk churns and market ephemera to create an eclectic vintage look that can also be seen at chocolate retailer The Rabot Estate Shop and clothing store Anthropologie.

The distressed look reaches its raw, Punkish zenith at The Cut, a bar in Newcastle designed by Julian Taylor Design Associates. The venue features sofas sawn in half, truncated metal barrels for tables and an anatomical approach to architecture that sees walls and stairways stripped and parts removed to reveal their component layers.

Homespun achieves its picturesque expression at the Artist Residence hotel, whose rooms are decorated by up-and-coming artists and designers. Now open in Brighton and Penzance, the hotel features murals, paintings and illustrations as well as furniture by emerging talent, creating a low-budget, low-fi boutique hotel. Likewise, Italian restaurant chain Zizzi employs emerging designers and artists to create bespoke graphics for its interiors. Zizzi’s interiors concept was inspired by the Doodle Bar in London, which allows guests to draw all over its walls and surfaces.

Meanwhile, a cosy, conservative aesthetic is emerging in restaurant design, with a look that is seeing features such as bare brick walls, banquettes, mosaics and terracotta floor tiles in establishments like Vietnamese restaurant Pho, by Martin Brudnizki, Goodman’s steak house, by Design LSM and the oyster bar Wright Brothers, by Studio Mad.

There are always multiple and contrasting trends marching shoulder to shoulder in interiors, as in any other discipline. So making use of contemporary materials and effect lighting for a sleek futuristic look – tinged with bubble-gum colourful fun – are specialist brands like US-based frozen yoghurt company Tangy Sweet, designed by US-based Kube Architecture. With its gimmicky, minimalist interior, Tangy Sweet looks like a slightly more grown up direct aesthetic descendent of our own frozen yoghurt retailer Snog.

Snog’s look – created by Cinimod Studio – was in turn inspired by that of Innocent, arguably the UK’s progenitor of cute, fun, naive branding and interiors. The drinks company, which has seemed a little down in the mouth since selling to Coca-Cola in 2009, is moving out of Fruit Towers and into a Stiff & Trevillion-designed office block that is still in west London, yet a million miles away from its whimsical, home-made headquarters. Stiff & Trevillion is following the brief ’growing up innocently’ for the interiors, ditching the fake grass and picnic benches for a sleeker, more corporate look. The move is reminiscent of the suit index, which predicts that when times are tough, suit sales rise as employees struggle to impress their bosses.

In the office world, cheekily, banks are turning away from corporatism and towards fluffiness in an attempt to wheedle their way into the public’s good books. ’Love your bank’ beseeches new high street bank Metro Bank. Its interiors are designed by US architect Shirley Hill, who also happens to be Metro Bank boss Vernon Hill’s wife. Hill has injected a dose of 1950s-esque customer service cutesiness into her interiors, which feature a change-counting machine that dispenses branded goods to those who correctly guess the value of their coins.

Meanwhile, the now mainstream pop-up shop is re-evolving to become more interesting again, with this summer’s Cineroleum being particularly beguiling. The pop-up cinema took over one of the UK’s thousands of derelict petrol stations, using reclaimed and improvised materials to create an old-fashioned picture house. Unseen at the time of going to press, but equally beguiling as an idea is new pop-up concept the App Lounge, designed by Method. The pilot store will feature digital products in a physical space, a marriage of dimensions that could take over from the recession as the next big influence on retail and interior design.

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