Interiors Awards 2015: Retail
Designer: Rockwell Group
Location: New York
“This interior is a seamless blending of brand, product, and space without feeling contrived or over-designed. This project imbues the warmth and craft of the product displayed in every aspect.” -Jury
Detroit is synonymous with the decline and rebirth of American manufacturing. One of the poster companies for the city’s recent resurgence is Shinola. Established in 1907 as a shoeshine producer, Shinola was reinvented in 2011 by Bedrock Manufacturing, a venture capital firm, as a purveyor of leather goods, watches, and bicycles. Beyond its headquarters, factory, and flagship store in Detroit, Shinola has expanded with stores in London, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.
Shinola recently opened a flagship store in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, which has an industrial past turned fashionable, much like the brand itself. The company leased a 3,400-square-foot space in a historic building with an interior that had been stripped down to the brick walls. To reflect both Shinola’s past and present, New York–based Rockwell Group designed a retail space, cafe, showroom, and offices that combine new custom features by craftspeople with antiques to bring character back to the Tribeca building.
“It was important for us to stay true to the Tribeca neighborhood and retain the original design integrity from when it was first built,” says Daniel Caudill, creative director at Shinola. Greg Keffer, principal and studio leader at Rockwell Group, echoes that sentiment: “Shinola is known for its details and craft, and we tried to emphasize that in the store design.” He adds, however, that “the challenge was how to make this new space feel like something old and familiar, harkening back to the industrial age when American craft was strong.”
Guests enter through the refurbished storefront initially into a 400-square-foot coffee bar and newsstand operated by local restaurant The Smile. The cafe is lined with a custom Brazilian walnut bar, millwork, and glass display cases made by Walter’s Custom Cabinetry. Antiques—such as valet tables, Adjustrite stools, and a pastry case from France—contribute to the cafe’s laid-back ambiance. Mercury Glass X-ray light fixtures restored by Curtis Lighting hang above tables, and fixtures by Comasco made with salvaged naval junction boxes illuminate the coffee bar.
A short corridor leads from the front cafe to the retail area. “This is a space for discovery: Customers walk in without realizing there is this whole area beyond,” Keffer says. The 2,000-square-foot, double-height retail area that Keffer likens to a “magical workshop environment” features a new vaulted plaster ceiling with a “skylight” at the rear that is actually faux: A steel frame holds panels that glow via daylighting technology.
Throughout the retail area, furnishings and fixtures reference America’s manufacturing heritage and invite guests to linger. Custom white oak tables, designed by Rockwell and fabricated by Walter’s Custom Cabinetry, are surrounded by banker chairs from Uhuru and custom reproductions of antique brass library lamps from Chapman Lighting. Stadium-style bleachers display products by day and convert to seating for after-hours events.
A focal point of the retail area is an oversized antique bronze world map that hangs above the bleachers and directly references the industrial age. Sourced by WYETH, the map was made in the 1930s and once hung in the Rockefeller Center lobby for an oil company. Another highlight of the space is a custom steel and brass staircase, fabricated by Total Metal Resources, which extends from the retail floor to a new catwalk where bicycles and other Shinola products are displayed. A 1,000-square-foot mezzanine accommodates offices and a showroom furnished with vintage chairs from Detroit’s police department.
In Shinola’s New York flagship, Rockwell Group has blended custom features with historical furnishings to create a unique space that befits the neighborhood and proves that American craft is still alive and well. But perhaps the most successful aspect of the project is the element of discovery for guests who enter through the front cafe, and it is an experience that many repeat. According to Caudill, “We see some of the same customers everyday.”