Architects and designers SHH have completed a bold and striking new design concept for Russian tearoom operator Teaspoon, with the first outlet to house the new design now open in the new-build O'Key shopping mall on Balkanskaya Street in southern St Petersburg.
Teaspoon is an existing, 6 year-old and 70-strong Russian chain of tea and pancake houses, based mainly in St Petersburg and Moscow region and sited in high street and hypermarket locations. The Teaspoon offer is based around a range of speciality teas, along with savoury and sweet pancakes with hot and cold fillings and a small range of side orders, such as soup and salads. Each pancake is made to order and so the client brief asked to underline the theatricality of the preparation process, whilst customers await their order. The new design also had to encapsulate a broader offer including coffee, cakes and also draught beer (as the operator had become newly licensed), created as a separated offer with a dedicated till and aimed at different customer timeslots in the day and evening.
The new 300 sq m space, on a corner site of the hypermarket, had a natural sense of theatre with an exceptionally high 6m void below the beams (and a further 2m above) and existing industrial-feel exposed ceilings, with enough volume to allow for an interior treatment of strong colours and dramatic design features. Entry to the space is either from the hypermarket side or directly from the street, with two street-side glazed façades (completely glazed above the 1250 mm riser), offering clear views into the interior.
SHH wanted to achieve a clean, light and dramatic feel for the interior, building on the existing orange brand identity but without the plethora of hanging graphics from the previous design. The designers were also briefed to create a highly contemporary concept, but one that was specifically Russian and non-generic!
The strongest new design feature - a 6m-high wraparound ceramic wall - took the existing orange of the Teaspoon brand and added two further tones of orange, along with black and white for contrast. Taking inspiration from traditional Russian folkloric art, the colours were combined to create a location-specific, huge scale ceramic wall, which dominates the space. The wall features a traditional floral graphic, which has been contemporised and treated digitally before being broken down into the new 5-way colourway, arranged into a grid format and applied using 100 mm x 100 mm ceramic tiles.
The new wall feature is so strong that all other walls - bar one further orange feature wall - were kept in white so as not to compete with it. The service area in front of the ceramic wall was created from a monolithic block of white Hi-Max Corian, topped with toughened glass screens, with all cooking equipment inset (where the former design had cooking equipment above the counter surface), so that customers focus on the food rather than the equipment. Menus are presented via plasma screens at eye-level.
The main space customer seating area takes the form of large, communal, picnic-style tables (with white, reflective surfaces and orange undersides); some with benches and some higher up with loose seating, whilst some tables are single and others double-sided, so that all types of users, from single users to group users can all feel comfortable at them. Above the main seating area and balancing out the impact of the tiled ceramic wall is a series of ten giant-scale, bespoke hanging pendant lights in black with an orange interior.
A more intimate area down one side of the new space features booth seating, with bespoke-designed high-backed orange seats and orange perspex low-pendant lights above each table. A lounge area, with a different design treatment, houses 8 smaller round tables and loose furniture (with chairs from Italian manufacturer Pedralli) with lighting in the form of thinner black pendants with orange interiors, mirroring the giant lamps over the main seating space. The lounge also has a custom-built black banquet to the window elevations with 'bookcase' corner details and table lights. There is a low-level metal beaded curtain on the windows and a WiFi area to encourage increased / evening dwell time.
Flooring is a mixture of black ceramic 600 x 300mm tiles in the main flooring area, the service route and for back-of-house, to work off the orange tile wall, with raised timber flooring just for the lounge area, ensuring good views out of the surrounding windows.
"The Teaspoon project has been a great opportunity for us work with a young and energetic company and to gain an understanding of differing cultural traits that have been instrumental in creating the design, where a contemporary feel had to be balanced with the operator's essentially Russian identity," said Helen Hughes, Senior Designer at SHH. "We are very pleased to be developing further sites with Teaspoon over the coming months in what is very much a process based on open dialogue and fine-tuning."
"This is a great design concept which exceeded all our expectations," added Igor Kolynin, Marketing Director of Teaspoon. "One of the main tasks for the design was to raise the average spend by 30%. Encouraging customers to spend more money is not a matter of pricing, but a question of the environment, which should encourage longer dwell times and higher spend. At the same time, the interior does not give the impression of being too expensive - rather it is affordable but stylish. Early signs of success include an increase in customer numbers and average spend is already up by 30%. We really wondered if foreign designers could understand Russian style, rather than giving us a tourist's view of Russia. We wanted to move from the fast food to the casual dining sector and with the new design we have succeeded in this."
SHH have now been commissioned to work on the second new generation Teaspoon outlet at a further new-build site within a second St Petersburg hypermarket.