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The Philosopher

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Space to Flourish

Published: 8th November 2018

Pictures © Universal Design Studio

Fine Blooms is a business founded on a belief that flowers have the power to transform a space, so it follows that they wouldn’t be looking to replicate a traditional florist when it came to the architecture of their own store. From the ways their bouquets are presented to the astonishing attention to detail when it comes to packaging and service, the creative direction of every aspect of the brand is a departure from the norm. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Box Park flagship, conceived by London-based Universal Design Studio. Carly Sweeney of UDS talks us through the project.

Pictures © Universal Design Studio

Could you talk us through the project from the beginning?

This project was a gem — a real joy to work on. It’s far smaller in size than most of our current work but it contains a huge amount of detail and design consideration.

From the outset we were looking to achieve the highest quality possible in all aspects of the store — the flowers themselves, the customer experience and the design. Fine Blooms is a very luxurious, elegant but contemporary brand, and we were looking to challenge the typical flower shop archetype.

Tell us about the concept behind the design.

The space we’ve created is as much a gallery as a flower shop — it’s a place to showcase art, sculpture and craft — we collaborated with a number of artists and makers to create bespoke vases and installations for the space. We also wanted to reevaluate how a retail space like this functions, and ensure front and back of house spaces were designed intuitively.

Part of the concept was to ensure the store felt rooted in the locality through its design.  We visited Dubai to explore the surrounding area, absorb the culture and spent time out in the desert getting a feel for the local environment before heading back to the drawing board to design a space that felt refined and contemporary with a focus on unique design.  As an example, the undulating exposed aggregate wall which runs the length of the space was directly inspired by the colours, tone and texture of the desert.

Unparalleled service is also at the heart of the concept. Thinking about the customer experience as a series of distinct and considered moments was key. We created a private consultation space which can partitioned off from the main shop floor.  It’s backed with a curved leather screen that softens the acoustics and creates a sense of privacy. The sculptural counter in heart of the space is another important touch point and a hub of activity within the store — there’s space to dwell, have a refreshment and engage with the florists while your flowers are being prepared.

How does the store differ from the typical florist in the UAE?

It was important for us to first understand the culture around buying flowers in Dubai, which is really quite different from the UK. British consumers are more casual about it, whereas in Dubai there is much more ceremony to the occasion of buying flowers; they are a luxury item and the arrangements are far more crafted and exquisite. So, from the beginning we knew this boutique would be unlike anything we have back home, it is a much more luxurious and refined experience.

Were there specific things you needed to consider because of the location?

The need for a refrigerator in a flower shop was unexpected! We created the huge bespoke chiller from polished stainless steel and textured glass and made it a celebrated centrepiece rather than something purely functional. The result is a really beautiful diffused, almost painterly view of the blooms through the textured glass, which is something quite unique for a flower shop.

Can you tell us more about the materials and textures used?

For such a small store, we had many hands at work, we collaborated with Matter of Stuff, (who are based in London and manufacture in Italy) on the undulating wall and enamel planters, with London Mouldmakers on the sculptural counter, local artists Talin Hazbar and Latifa Saeed on a ceramic installation, Studio Saahil on the glass vases (which are made with local sand) as well as Emirati initiative FBMI on textiles. It took a lot of work and co-ordination, including the craftsmen coming from Italy hand finishing the aggregate wall on site — but it all makes for a rich and detailed interior.

The space we’ve created is as much a gallery as a flower shop — it’s a place to showcase art, sculpture and craft.

Carly Sweeney, Universal Design Studio

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