For a market leading retailer and supplier of specialist, high quality culinary ingredients, cookware and books, the fit out of The Essential Ingredient’s South Melbourne store could be nothing but exemplary. Bequeathed with the design legacy of its many past lives, including a garage, hair salon and gift store, creating a dynamic space reflecting The Essential Ingredient brand was a challenge relished by design partners Wilson ID and Bent Architecture.
First and foremost was giving the store a high profile within the streetscape, creating a neutral but creative framework for product display – making use of existing fixtures and fittings – and improving pedestrian access from the street and within the store. Though no mean feat, this clever team brought the store to spectacular, new life.
While timber cladding and geometric shaped, apple green tiles create a strong, inviting statement for the brand on the street front, the large shop windows seamlessly draw passers by into the new space. And a revised entry and floor allows for more functional and appealing access.
Inside, the original white colour scheme, and several circular skylights, was creatively transformed to a subtle, yet distinctive in-store experience. “Our approach was to try to neutralise the interior by introducing a dark, monochromatic colour palette – of greys, black and white – while defining various moments with textural contrast,” Ian Wilson, Director, Wilson ID explains. As you can see, colour is used cleverly, and sparingly, by way of contrast to draw the eye. In fact, the real skill in this design is its dark colour scheme, which, while calm and neutral, provides enough textural variation to lift the store’s interior, providing a backdrop for the product range, rather than competing with it. “The product is now the hero, with the background offering light and shade,” Ian comments.
The result is, as Bent Architecture describes, “a diverse palette of materials which have been overlaid to create a collage of textures.” The service counter is one such example. Midnight Blue Brick tiles were selected for their, “robust, non-precious, textured appearance, and their somewhat reflective quality, which gave it some life,” Ian remarks. Having to use the existing point of sale counter, the designers gave it a, “monolithic quality, so it appears as an object in space, rather than a piece of inexpensive joinery. Its weightiness makes it off the space, rather than in the space, and in this respect the materiality was very important,” Ian says.
Since its doors opened in 2017, The Essential Ingredient has made a memorable mark in South Melbourne. Not surprisingly, Ian received two awards at the 2017 Building Designers Association of Victoria’s building design awards: Non-residential Design – Alterations & Additions, and Interior Design – Non-residential. So well deserved for such a stunning fit out that’s still serving its owners and customers exceptionally well.
Product: Midnight Blue brick tiles
Builder: MRU Construction
Photographer: Tatjana Plitt Photography