International architecture and design practice Conran and Partners has completed a new flagship store for British lifestyle brand, The Conran Shop, in Seoul. The store – The Conran Shop’s first in South Korea – opens in the city’s Gangnam district.
Working closely with The Conran Shop’s in-house creative team, Conran and Partners have evolved the brand experience to create a high-impact lifestyle-led retail environment. The practice’s innovative design evokes the atmosphere and drama of a gallery space – rather than that of a conventional store – and allows for products to be curated in impactful, eye-catching ways.
The store, specialising in furniture and homeware, responds to the vibrant retail culture of the city and the context of the site. The Conran Shop has partnered with retail conglomerate, Lotte, on this venture and the 2,300 sq m outlet spans the ground and first floors of Lotte’s Gangnam annex building, adjacent to its main department store. These two floors were originally a multi-storey car-park. As a result, the building offers the positive attributes of large structure spans and a clear grid, but with the challenge of a lower ceiling than a typical new-build retail site.
The practice’s design approach has opened up the perimeter to allow maximum light into the store, as well as to optimise views in and out. Switch-back escalators in the centre of the store act as a dramatic architectural feature and encourage circulation between the two floors.
The design adopts a strong graphic-led approach, showcasing all aspects of The Conran Shop’s iconic product range, while enhancing Lotte’s wider home furnishing offer as this market continues to grow both across South Korea and the wider the Asia region.
The store has two distinctive identities, responding to the various product typologies and purposefully differentiating key elements of the retail journey and customer experience. The ground floor space – where most customers enter – is clean and light, combining concrete, steel and glass elements alongside fully exposed services to create a bold ‘lab’ experimental feel. This conceptual design offers a wide range of flexibility and blends the aesthetic of a factory, warehouse, gallery and tech-lab to give a crisp and bright backdrop for the display of a wide range of merchandise.
Arriving at ground floor level, customers are met with an ‘infinite product gallery’ of white rectilinear display plinths located on the central axis, the focal point being the cast concrete sales desk. Above this ‘design catwalk’ is a white mesh ceiling incorporating both linear and spot lighting which gives a structure to the customer journey through this area of the store. The remaining ground floor areas present as a grid of plinths, tray-tables and white trolleys (a trolley type usually found back-of-house rather than in a luxury retail environment but finished in a custom paint).
The ground floor also incorporates a prominently positioned ‘Orby’ café. The design is consistent with the minimal ‘lab’ aesthetic but with the added palette of cast concrete, perforated steel and timber furniture, including a full range of Carl Hansen dining chairs. The Conran Shop has collaborated with local artisan coffee company Taylor Coffee to create the Orby coffee blends and menu.
In contrast, the first floor – where high quality residential furniture products are displayed – presents customers with a richly atmospheric, relaxed ‘club’ feel, encouraging interaction with products and the spaces at a more leisurely pace.
The dark finish used for the ceiling introduces a low eyeline, with timber floors softening the acoustics, warming the ambience and adding a more luxe domestic – yet fashionable – feel. The iconic Conran Shop chair wall takes on a new form using dark terrazzo and a blackened frame and incorporating a display of 54 iconic chairs. A kitchen and dining area sits on this floor which has been planned, designed and styled to be used as an event space.
The two floors are united by the ‘Conran Blue’ core, the vibrant brand colour acting as a navigational marker for customer orientation. This circulation core is encased with vertical glazing which – uplit – creates an appealing, soft focus and a confidently modern aesthetic. Glass is also used across both floors to add texture, while obscuring views and defining key spaces. The blue colouring is used subtly throughout to reinforce brand identity, complemented by colourful graphic murals also feature on each floor.
Simon Kincaid, Partner, Conran and Partners says; “We wanted to create what is, effectively, a contemporary gallery space which allows The Conran Shop to curate its products and encourages customers to engage with those products in an atmospheric, dramatic and stimulating retail environment. The contrast between the two floors adds a sense of theatre and surprise to the experience, as well as giving variation and depth to the product merchandising.
“Alongside this key design feature are smaller ‘experiential pockets’, for example, a black-on-black-on-black lighting room on the first-floor which offers customers an immersive environment with solid portal entrances and light-refracting glass walls in which the lighting products pop like jewels in the night. We have also created VIP rooms with walnut-panelled walls and a whisky display referencing the founder’s favourite tipple. This is similar to the ambience created by a members’ club or private dining room spaces where customers can relax, select and specify the fabrics and finishes of their new
“The design creates opportunities to enjoy the experience of browsing products as much as the pleasure of purchasing them. This flagship store will, I believe, help to establish the brand as a key destination for fashion-led design customers.”