Experiential retail with Domus
Situated between Great Sutton Street and Clerkenwell Road on the passageway that faces The Slaughtered Lamb pub, Domus’ newly opened showroom in the heart of Clerkenwell brings together functionality with experiential retail demands of a modern customer. Envisioned by Domus’ CEO, Jon Newey, working in close collaboration with Interior Design Manager Robyn Payne, the resulting showroom design is the long-awaited, rewarding outcome of hundreds of hours of careful thinking, deliberation, and a committed focus to both aesthetics and functionality.
Referring to the showroom move, Jon Newey explained, “With the 10-year lease at Domus’ original Clerkenwell site on Great Sutton Street concluded owing to the fact the building was marked for redevelopment, we were faced with the challenge of searching for a suitable new Clerkenwell site in the middle of a pandemic. Our number one priority was to remain in the centre of this fantastic design community, which led to reviewing multiple site options. We wanted to find a unique space with inherent character, but somewhere we knew we could create a simple, focused layout that would be easy for clients to navigate and the crucial addition of outside space. The site at 1 Sutton Lane fitted the bill, and once we signed the contract in January this year, planning and design work began immediately to make the space work for Domus”.
In terms of spatial planning, Newey and Payne decided to divide the 2,374 sq ft showroom into three main zones: the arrival zone, the tile specification zone and the engineered flooring zone, the latter of which also includes Domus’ Magnum XL format porcelain stone and marble slabs. It is in effect a natural flow – with the entrance and tile specification zone situated on the ground floor within the existing 1930s annexe building and the engineered flooring and Magnum zone housed on the first floor within a prefabricated 840 sq ft Cabu modular extension structure added above a section of the existing building to create an additional storey.
The team chose to preserve many of the building’s original features to retain the unique character of the 1930s industrial city architecture and immediate area on Sutton Lane. As such, the showroom has been sensitively designed around the building’s existing fabric, weaving the new with the old, with a strong focus on texture and natural materials.
Payne reveals that “a material palette comprised of wood, terrazzo, porcelain stone and raw steelwork alongside the building’s original features including exposed brick walls, Crittal windows and exposed wooden beam roof structure to convey a stripped-back architectural softness. The absence of original features within the first-floor extension means this part of the showroom has a very different atmosphere, with the two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows creating a much lighter and airier space with a distinctly contemporary feel”.
Payne describes how the colour palette shifts throughout the showroom to help create clearly defined areas that serve different purposes:
“The arrival zone is defined by organic, earthy hues which create a warm and welcoming feel the moment you step into the showroom. Here, we sandblasted the exposed bricks back to their original red colour and used our Docks reclaimed wood flooring together with various warm tones, such as the caramel-coloured New Terracotta glazed ceramic tiles along the bar splashback and bronze metal frame of the reception desk. In contrast, cooler tones are applied within the tile specification zone to aid concentration and focus while clients review and select materials. On the first floor, the high level of natural light meant we could use warmer natural tones to help calm the eye.
The showroom palette also incorporates pops of colour in deep natural tones, placed strategically to add visual interest and draw the eye – such as the deep, rich red used on the Technical Products display cabinet, end-panels painted in rust and olive, and fixtures and fittings painted in dark, warm grey”
Housing over 3,000 individual products, a material reference library takes centre stage within the new showroom design concept, providing clients with instantly accessible reference pieces from Domus’ extensive tile, wood and engineered flooring ranges. Inspired by the style of old dispensaries and containing over 250 ranges in all colour and finish options, the reference library has been designed to help make choosing and selecting surface materials an effortless, intuitive part of the specification process – acting as a convenient and comprehensive design source for interior designers, architects and specifiers.
Inspired by industrial factory storage and racks, Newey explains the vision and purpose of this new showroom feature: “Whilst reviewing the old showroom, a missing aspect that we identified was mid-size material reference pieces that enable clients to see a larger than sample piece of every product Domus offers, filed in an orderly system and kept in the showroom permanently for clients to view as required. Introducing this new-concept reference library of materials elevates the showroom selection experience, ensuring client visits are purposeful and fulfilling”.
In contrast to the warm tones and heavy textures used throughout the entrance, the tile specification zone utilises a cooler palette. Here, Domus’ large-format Sensi porcelain stone slabs in a neutral grey tone are used on the floor, paired with grey-white painted exposed brick walls to create a clean, fresh environment conducive to viewing and selecting tiles.
“Since the tile specification zone is primarily a functional space where clients carefully consider the different colours, textures and finishes of tiles for their projects, we wanted this part of the showroom to feel much more minimal and orderly to prevent visual interference from other materials”, says Payne.
This long section of the showroom contains part of Domus’ new material reference library, which runs into the area from the reception zone, an expansive sample wall, a technical product display, a small number of flexible tile displays and 100 tile ranges displayed on pull-out panels.
A dedicated photography booth located within the tile specification zone is a new addition to the showroom for Domus, allowing clients to easily create and document mood board concepts, providing the space and equipment to visually record material options whilst sourcing products and testing ideas.
The showroom benefits from two separate outdoor areas, which provide a relaxing place to get fresh air and socialise. An enclosed courtyard space is accessed from the ground floor, while a vast open terrace adjoins the first floor. Both spaces use adjustable support pedestals, a system that enables the simple dry-laying of 20mm tiles without the need for grout.
In the courtyard, Domus’ Selection Oak 20mm porcelain wood planks are laid with a staggered joint to ensure the space has a relaxed feel. On the first-floor terrace, Sensi 20mm porcelain stone in a soft grey tone is used in 120 x 60mm format, establishing a distinct, minimal feel that creates a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Here, Payne decided to hang three large square frames displaying Domus’ Matonelle Margherita tiles designed by Nathalie Du Pasquier, to the adjoining building exterior wall, complemented by a classic black and white striped awning, retaining the character of the Clerkenwell courtyard whilst adding visual interest with the colourful patterned tiles.
The culmination of months of planning and design work, the new showroom is much more than just a display of products, but rather a warm and welcoming environment and a seamless fit with the Domus brand. The original vision centred not only on creating a functional space but crucially an ambience to help both staff and clients feel relaxed, happy and focused when using the space. Emphasising the importance of human interaction to the brand, Newey highlights,
“Over and above design, it is the service, hospitality, and hearty welcome that make Domus what it is. The staff are the lifeblood of Domus; it is the team that ultimately make a showroom work and bring it all to life.”
On a final note, Newey says, “Our main aim when designing the new showroom was to consider every aspect of the customer journey, whilst also considering the relevance of the current market condition – during a global pandemic – and trying to predict what people may require over the next few years and beyond. We hope that the showroom we have designed provides all of the services, facilities and ultimately the atmosphere and environment that are relevant to those requirements.” He goes on to add, “In everything we thought about during the planning and design process, we tried to include with an element of agility, continually responding to current market conditions. Each and every element of the space has been very carefully considered and ultimately required a great deal of care to get the balance right”.