Making the Most of History

A family-owned jewelry and optical business in Germany lets its products do the talking
Posted April 30, 2018

Jewelry retailers typically have one major obstacle to overcome when creating a new store: selling small products in relatively large spaces.

With this in mind, family-owned jewelry and optical business Hunke, based in Ludwigsberg in southwest Germany, has transformed three of its aging buildings by consolidating the interiors into a combined jewelry and eyeglasses store that captures attention, but also allows the products (and services) to do much of the talking.

With a total sales area of 8073 square feet spread across a series of rooms and stories, the initial challenge facing architects from Ippolito Fleitz Group – Identity Architects (Stuttgart, Germany) was how to incorporate a series of different retail elements.

“The last [Hunke] store was good for the last generation, and now the new generation has taken over. The owners took a deep breath and decided to do something different and create an interior that will last more than one generation,” explains Peter Ippolito, Managing Partner for the consultancy. He says that this was a long-term project – taking five years from start to finish – and that, in order to make it all work, one of the three buildings had to be “torn down” while planning for a new one was sought.

“Initially, the city was quite positive, but then we had an intense discussion because the building is in a sensitive area,” says Ippolito. This was not entirely surprising, given the new Hunke store’s position in a historic Baroque neighborhood.

The jewelry shop is accessed via Kirchstrasse Street and divides into two areas, one for watches and the other for fine jewelry. Ippolito says the intention was to cater to “the widest possible customer range,” and so the material palette for the store is broad, including marble, exposed brick, braided metals and mouth-blown glass lighting. The jewelry space also incorporates a coffee bar.

An unusual interior integration includes the Kieselhaus: Prior to construction, the backyard area of the properties housed the listed building of former court jeweler Kiesel, as well as a historic royal silversmith shop. Both structures had to be joined into an integrated whole, while being sensitive to the surrounding inner-city development.

Now inside the structures, in a two-story atrium (replacing the courtyard as the connector between the Kieselhaus and the silversmith shop), the 400-year-old gute stube, or parlor, serves as the consulting area in the watch portion of the store. It includes its original, historic furnishings and marks the central point within the store. The bare brick of the original silversmith shop was left as is, while the façade of the Kieselhaus is now coated in metal.

For those wishing to splash the cash, there are luxurious consulting zones laden in leather and brass and featuring a lounge area to relax in while making decisions.

The jewelry section’s upper level, the setting for wedding and bridal rings, is accessed via a restored, historic staircase, which offers views to the floor below. This space has an altogether lighter feel, in spite of the low ceilings and, in effect, offers prospective brides and grooms privacy, away from the rest of the store.

The optical area of the retail concept is accessible from Asperger Street, and exudes a more urban, laidback aesthetic. Colorful shelves house eyeglasses and sunglasses, and bright red shelving signals the transition to the jewelry department and the staircase to the upper level. Illuminated cabinets, dark curtains, integrated mirrors and angular shapes aim to convey a feeling of familiarity. For example, consultancy areas are demarcated by soft, loose carpets, intended to give customers a feeling of home.

The result is a shining treasure chest in the heart of the city that works well, both with its environs and with its product offerings.  

Photography: Zooey Braun, Stuttgart, Germany