L-R: Alice Carmody, Rick Hardy-Jones, Aaron Mclean, Dorian Minty, Penny Angell 

Background: Jimmy and Aaron from VidaSpace sat down with Dorian Minty and Penny Angell, the designers of our new Wellington showroom in College St to discuss the outcome of the project and the thought that went into the design process. Dorian Minty is an Associate at Studio Pacific and heads up their interiors team and been there since 2002 after studying fine arts and industrial design and completing design work on ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Penny Angell, another well-known designer in Wellington, was with Studio Pacific for 3 years, working in their interiors team was heavily involved with the project along with her colleague Jason Kowalak who was unable to join us for the interview.
Jimmy Simmons (JS): Going right back to the beginning Penny, what was the original brief that you worked with and how did that set the stage for the project?

Penny Angell (PA):  Right from the beginning you wanted to create and ‘award-winning’ space that was not just a showroom, but a meeting and socialising space for the Wellington design community. Something that had a truly Wellington feel about it.

JS: After looking at a lot of options, VidaSpace settled on using Studio Pacific for this project after speaking with you both about the project and your excitement to be involved in it. What was your thoughts on being selected for this project Dorian?

Dorian Minty (DM): Most of our projects are large-scale and long-term—comparatively, VidaSpace was a very juicy little design-heavy project where we could really focus on our craft and push the boundaries. The project was all about generating an interior design retail experience. We know the product well, and are part of the customer profile, so we knew we could hit the ground running. It’s not Studio Pacific’s core business doing this type of fitout, so it was a very cool opportunity to make a dent in that world.

JS: The original purpose of the space we outlined to you in the first meeting and when we did the first site visit and came up with a frozen sketch, could you explain more about how this influenced the design?

DM: Our main goal was to go beyond simply displaying the product on a showroom floor, and instead put the product to work to create a stylish environment that allows the client to experience the product not just see it. We wanted it to feel ‘real’  and have a usable format where people can collaborate and design. If you were to drive past you might think it looks like someone’s awesome apartment.

PA: And also the feeling that this is almost a gallery space, so it is more like showcasing art and high-end product. Being able to reflect that when you first walk into the space and having your timber as a backdrop to that and clearly using white as galleries do. It is a way of making your product sit forward.

JS: On some of your first concepts when developing the design, Penny, you used the larch tree going through the four seasons. Could you explain further how this was used in the design?

PA: Yes, the seasons of the tree and how that reflected a number of different strong, rich colours, timber offers and smoked Larch is such a beautiful, deep, rich product. Being able to see how that changed seasonally and then introducing a little bit of colour in the space yet retaining a neutral gallery space, meaning whatever you display in the space, you are working with a beautiful backdrop to it.

DM: I mean, it is the hero of the room isn’t it [large winter larch joinery unit]. Creating a central hero joinery unit meant we could utilise it from both sides to make it really efficient,. It could be used as a storage unit from both sides and yet it felt like a functioning kitchen in a very high-end apartment.

PA: And playing with that scale. You’ve got the volume of the space and being able to play with that height and only building two tiny walls whilst creating so many different flexible spaces. Much like the meeting room, we did not construct any walls, yet you have the ability to close off the space with the curtain.

DM: I love the curtaining. It’s cool, it’s really cool. It brings an aspect of softness into a space with predominantly hard surfaces. Whether it is open or closed it doesn’t matter, it hangs and drapes. It’s like a beautiful garment. Acoustically it works, but also aesthetically it’s a softening. To make something jump out, you contrast it with the opposite. It is very ‘loft apartment’ in here isn’t it?

JS: Yes it is

Aaron McLean (AM): Creating a high end showroom space, how did you take into account the latest trends in retail design and the customer experience?

DM: I guess a part of that was a desire to create something that is really cool and fresh and modern; that would sit in that kind of Aesop, Lonely, space. Retail is stepping up.

JS: You are selling the experience not the product.

DM: Yes, you don’t want to walk in and there is some brightly coloured carpet tiles you know….

PA: Or too much of your product. We have only used three of your products. We’ve used the smoked larch veneers, the Shinnoki Raven oak and the Fendi Oak herringbone on the floor, yet the space speaks volumes of what you have on offer. It’s there, its just not in your face.

JS: Curves feature in the base build and that has been reflected in the design details, can you speak more on that?

DM: Doing things like the radiused ends on the cabinetry…the curves, for me, is what really makes this sing. If that had been square it would be different but we are showcasing what you can do with that material at the same time….

PA:…As well as what is happening in your existing building with the columns and all of these curves.

DM: If I was to walk in off the street and see this…it really lifts the value of the product as it enables people to see what the product can do. If you were to show someone a picture of the product; now they can see it in situ, in a modern context, it is really incredibly beautiful. So it is creating objects of desire in a way, if you like.

AM: Can you say more about the colour tones and materiality of the space?

PA: Also introducing others materials that reflect what we were working with in the existing building, for example the colour of the existing window joinery is reflected in the kitchen island unit. Tying in the warm with the cool.

DM: Absolutely! That’s like that ‘Minotti’. We are very influenced by Minotti and the sophisticated feel they achieve through the interplay of warm dulcet tones, cool stone tones and bright whites. Having a light floor in here really works. Again, the herringbone floor is just stunning but it doesn’t take away from the hero in the room which is this [smoked larch joinery unit]. It’s all about that joinery spine running through that central space.

PA: The joinery itself; the workmanship in that joinery is stunning. It speaks volume of your product but also the experience that someone is going to have when they walk in here.

DM: There are aspects in here looking forward but also a nod to that classic, timeless mid-century look.

PA: And this here will stand the test of time.

DM: Absolutely. It’s still going to look so awesome in 10 years’ time.

DM: It is quite a humming site, it will get quite a lot of exposure, and it is something to be quite proud of. I guess that is the thing [regarding the design], it is very ‘Wellington’.

PA: A bit of that No.8 wire; it’s kiwi and New Zealand but in a refined way that reflects your product.

AM: How do you feel the whole design process went?

DM: For me it feels like we have really hit the nail on the head and in quite a short turn around. It was a quick design process. We went from concept straight to working drawings, which could be disastrous. But we streamlined the process for you guys because of our relationship. There would normally be a few more hoops that you jump through but because of the nature and size of the project and your timeframe and the strong brief which is really good. Getting a strong brief is really important. You guys had a vision and were really trusting and you let us go for it and that’s worked out really well

PA: I think that’s how design needs to work.

DM: That’s how it should be.

AM: I think the big thing I have learnt out of it is the value of good design. I am fairly conservative. I will forever appreciate good design and the difference it makes. Can you walk us through some of the design details.

DM: I think it was critical to have the appliances integrated in this fit out because what we were wanting to do was showcase the product. It’s that attention to detail that with potential purchasers who are coming in; this is supposed to set their minds racing as to what’s achievable and what can be done with your materials

PA: The larch sits well with the black and as opposed to what people are used to using like the white oaks and lighter timbers.

DM: The larch with the matte finish with the scraped texture to the finish; it’s not just a sanded finish. These types of finishes have not been able to be achieved very easily with joiners in this country like 10 years ago but this is very ‘now’. Not in a million years are you ever going to think this is a laminate. Because of the variation, the grain; it’s got so much character, its clearly the real deal. In so many respects these days with all the imitation products it is getting really hard to tell, whereas there is just no way that it is anything other than real timber.

We want to show our gratitude to Dorian, Penny, Jason and the amazing team at Studio Pacific and their stunning work on this space, Alice, Rick, Shaun, Mat and the team at Choice Commercial for an extremely well run project, Brian, Dan and the team at Hansens Joinery for excellent craftsmanship and all the other product supply partners that were involved. Pop in for a coffee and explore what we have available.
X