SHH has completed a total refurbishment, including a new identity, store fascia, extension and interior concept, of the Marchant antiques store in London's Kensington Church Street. The S Marchant & Son dealership, specialists in Chinese ceramics and artworks, is a family business dating back to 1925, which has been managed in succession by three generations of the same family, with father and son team Richard and Stuart Marchant currently heading up the company.
When SHH was commissioned, the store hadn't been refurbished for over 20 years, and was beginning to look a little faded and in need of an injection of contemporary style. The brief was to give the store a more contemporary look, to refresh the company branding and to rationalise and the building's space plan, thereby increasing the display / gallery area.
"We were asked to create a scheme that was contemporary, but with a classic and timeless air," commented Creative Director Neil Hogan, "so that it could easily last another 20 years without looking dated. It was also important to maximise gallery space and indeed, thanks to our new space-plan, we have increased gallery space overall by 20%."
The store was re-branded simply as Marchant by the SHH graphics team, as a more concise version of the S Marchant & Son branding previously used. The new identity was inspired by the importance of jade in Chinese artworks and plays off the two shades of classic green and 'white' jade (which is in fact a lighter shade of green). A pattern was developed around the logo, also in green, tying in with an Asian pattern used for the interior fretwork walls surrounding the store's staircase. At the centre of the patterned square is the BADA (British Antique Dealers Association) marque, showing that Marchant is a certified dealer. Marchant has always been very involved in BADA and sought permission to integrate the marque, which would otherwise have been added to the side of the logo. It was a neater solution to integrate it into the logo itself and permission was duly granted. Below the square sits the Marchant name in a Gotham script, with the strapline 'Chinese ceramics and works of art' in both English and Chinese. The scope of the branding works included 2D applications (a full stationery range) and 3D applications to the store fascia, hanging signage and store awning.
For the interior, the design team was instructed to pay particular attention to functionality, as the existing store had in fact functioned extremely well. Critical to the success of the interior was the ability to display the store's antiques securely and to best advantage, both in the window and across the ground and first floor display areas, with other areas to include meeting and waiting areas; a library space for more in-depth discussions, and a preparation area, where antiques are painstakingly cleaned and restored where necessary. A DDA-compliant WC area also had to be installed on the ground floor.
After applying for and obtaining planning permission for the conservation area site, the pre-existing store was completely gutted and the building's back wall removed, so that the architects could extend the rear of the property, using a new steel box frame to create a new rear façade, which was then re-clad to match the existing rear brickwork.
The store has a completely new fascia, glazed to the maximum allowed by the planning regulations, with three windows set into a solid timber frame, with the frame and mouldings all in American crown-cut oak. The entry door, previously located in the centre of the fascia, has been moved to the right to maximise the window display area. A new awning was also installed, as the building faces west and receives quite strong sunlight. Behind each of the three picture windows a white panel has been hung, to set off display items (set on bespoke new merchandising plinths in Corian and timber) and to protect sightlines through the store when the interior display is being changed. In front of each display window is a metal planter, with site-specific displays created by The Window Box Company. The new branding (using the green jade / white jade allusion) is set out in green powder-coated aluminium lettering, toplit and set against a paler green background. A hanging sign uses the new branding pattern icon.
The building has four storeys. The lower-ground floor, which now has the same footprint as the floor above, houses the store room, the library and the preparation room. The library area is made up of a large table covered in velvet to protect the artefacts, with a ceiling raft that defines the seating area. In the preparation room, all the units are covered in Dalsouple rubber to protect artefacts from damage. The ground floor is a dedicated gallery space with a DDA-compliant WC to the rear, treated in striking green and white tiling and continuing the use of the green corporate highlight colour. Entry is via the door in the right of the fascia, which cedes into a lobby space with a magazine display area. In the main space, the entire left wall houses the new bespoke display system, made of non-reflective glass and bamboo with storage below, with new top and low level front lighting, all designed by SHH. The dramatic deep red of the wall was chosen by the client as the most effective backdrop for the artefacts to be displayed against. New freestanding display units were bespoke-designed by SHH to allow specific pieces to be highlighted and to create the window display.
Stairs to the right link all the floors and these have been made into a major internal feature with white, full-height fret-cut panels to either side of the stair with a pattern inspired by traditional Asian motifs, echoing the pattern used for the branding. The stair rail is in sections in green leather, inspired this time by traditional Chinese material bamboo (which was also used for the display areas) and the way it is formed in sections. The first floor has a similar layout with a gallery section, using the same finishes, but with a more informal feel, with a meeting area and tubs chairs and a sofa. The second floor, which was always an office area, has been reconfigures to be more user-friendly; it is now more open-plan with more storage and a more efficient use of space. It also makes fuller use of the ceiling void area, after the designers removed the existing flat ceiling and raised it up to the rafter level.
Client Stuart Marchant commented: "We are very happy with the new design," adding that the new working environment was 'very comfortable and attractive to work in." Mr Marchant also noted that the new use of the simplified Marchant name for the store linked back to the very beginnings of the business and the company's original name, as "confirmed by advertisements from the 1930s."