In essence, experiential retail is memory making, snapshotting a moment to recall later. It’s an exhilarating challenge for retailers and designers alike to find new and interesting ways to make their stores memorable. Some cater to luxury, offering food and drink during the shopping process; others incorporate it within the very blueprint of the store itself, using specific materials and decor.
For V+Coffee (Shandong, China) it’s not one or the other, but a marriage of both.
Designed by Fan Life (Shenzhen, China) V+Coffee is part coffee shop and part shopping experience. “Our client wanted to break through the previous sales model,” says Liu Jing, Chief Designer, Fan Life. At the heart of its design was considering how people would interact with the space throughout the day. “This small space is not only a café, but also a sales reception space. All products in this space can be sold.”
From the outside, V+Coffee is impressive, yet unassuming, with its stone façade and floor-to-ceiling windows. Greenery hanging from sconces hints at what you might find once you enter.
Hardly an inch of wall space is left untouched by decor. Prints and frames are hung throughout, as are, less traditionally, a typewriter, books and an old boom box. Framed chalkboards with hand-written script welcome patrons with words like “Coffee” and “Enjoy.” Overgrown vegetation cascades from the ceiling, where prop monkeys – yes, monkeys – hold tightly to lightbulbs, illuminating the ceiling and drawing the eye up. Moon lamps, made custom for the café, are surrounded by leaves that look real, but were created by carefully dyeing, weaving and clipping imported fabric.
“The greatest challenge of the project [was creating] the handmade parts of [the] soft decorations,” says Jing. “Considering the … durability of [the] materials, we used leaves as installations, followed patterns on household fabrics and made handcrafted lamps.”
A mix of materials and textures make for a homey, eclectic interior, with velvet, leather and wooden loveseats and chairs. Books, busts and blooms take up residency around corners and atop tables. It’s a feeling of organized chaos, intentional within the design.
Difficult as it may have been, it’s all to do for that all-important component of experiential retail: “Most of people’s memories come from the sensory experience, so we have been carrying out the design through spatial experience,” says Jing. “On tone, material, touch and sense, we tended to use natural elements and handle them in a people-oriented way.”
V+Coffee, Shandong, China
China Overseas Property Co. Ltd., Qingdao, China
Fan Life, Shenzhen, China: Liu Jing, Chief Designer; Design team: Huang Guanyu, Pang Liyuan, Liu Xin
Photography: Cai Zehong, China