When Jardan’s first-ever showroom opened on Melbourne’s Church Street in October 2014, waves rippled throughout the architecture and design industry. It seemed like every architectural render contained a piece of Jardan furniture, and the name was liable to pop up in just about every conversation.
The brand had of course previously been iconic, having developed a cult following for its slick, architecturally pleasing designs, made almost entirely from Australian materials. But the splash the first showroom opening made wasn’t just a result of the brand’s own monumental shift to in-store retail, it was the architecture of the showroom itself – the product of a profoundly researched concept by IF Architecture.
Three years later, and the brand has just opened another flagship store in Sydney, adding to the list of spaces that’s continued to expand since the Melbourne opening. Again, Jardan turned to IF Architecture for the design of the space, and again, they designed a space that captures that aspirational qualities of the brand with the sense of being in an (albeit monumental) family home.
In the wake of the opening, we sat down with IF Architecture’s Iva Foschia, the project’s design lead, who talked us through the concept behind this space so steeped in colour, context and country.
You’ve clearly developed a close relationship with Jardan over the years, having designed a number of other stores for them across the country. What would you say are the characteristic design features of a Jardan store?
We really try to balance identity with the context of the store. Jardan’s stores are obviously uniquely Australian stores, but they can be quite contextual – so in the Melbourne store, for instance, we tried to make it more in line with Melbourne, and same with the Sydney and Brisbane stores. With Sydney, we really wanted to embody the light and colour of the city, and the landscape. We felt like we were able to be more free with colour in the Sydney store.
What was your intention for the design of Jardan’s new Sydney flagship? How does it differ from the other stores?
Part of the concept was based in iconic creative Sydney families, which we researched before we started working on the design. One thing we noticed that all of these iconic Sydney families had in common was a love of colour. We wanted to develop our own unique palette of colours that we thought represented Sydney and these families, so we had a collaboration to develop these colours. As one example, we looked at Brett Whitely and this amazing ultramarine blue, and these other bright sorts of colours. It worked, because Jardan loves using colours in their fabrics and materials, and we wanted a palette that could work with any of these products. We’ve got this pinky, peachy colour and beautiful greens, and blues in the bathroom. Even though they’re all quite light, all of the colours that we chose for this palette have a lot of depth to them.
How did you manage to balance this need to remain in keeping with the Jardan identity, and to express the unique NSW context?
There was a tension, but there also wasn’t. You almost need a little bit of tension to make the design work. It is sort of like, having two things next to each other – or a space that is a bit of a collection of objects and of ideas – is what can then make a project sing. Jardan, although they’re Melbourne-based, they really do spend a lot of time in designing and investing in Australian materials and products. They very much see themselves as an Australian brand, so that’s probably on the back of their minds, both in terms of designing their furniture and when it comes to their store design.
In terms of our designs, I try not to think about – apart from the space requirements, and I will do an initial layout to make sure that whatever needs to fit, can fit – but then they take over the layout and I try not to get involved. After that initial layout, I concentrate on the design, because I know the furniture will work in any scenario. I don’t want to design the space too specifically for future products, because I don’t know what they’ll be. The design should be able to highlight whatever they’ve got on the showroom floor at the time.
With that existing client relationship in place, was it easier to get concepts across with the client?
Each time it’s gotten easier, yes. I think the Melbourne store was the one that cemented that relationship. Previously, Jardan had only had trade showrooms; they were trade-based, and other people would retail their products for them. They had previously had a store in Brisbane, but in Melbourne they didn’t have a showroom presence. The first Melbourne showroom store was really dedicated to retail, and its location was much more prominent than their existing spaces. And so, although we’ve done little fit-outs for them previously, the Melbourne showroom was really that big leap of faith for them and was what sold them in terms of concept.
For Melbourne, we were looking to iconic Australian houses, like Walter Burley Griffin’s homestead in Eaglemont, and John and Sunday Reed’s home [which is now the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Heidelberg, Melbourne]. We looked at those homes you look at and think are representative of Australia and of our lifestyles here. We thought if we could create a space that has the essence of some of those places, we’d know that we’d captured the Australian context.
It’s been great working with Jardan; I think we’ve really grown together. Because we’ve been able to build a relationship over multiple projects, the creative freedom has been wonderful. For the Melbourne and Sydney showrooms, they just wanted to know they could fit everything they needed to fit, then they left the concept up to us. We presented to them of course hoping they would relate to it, and that they would love it and want to explore it, but it wasn’t them driving that concept. It came the other way, then it was us working to ensure that all their functional requirements were met.
What about materiality? What kind of palette were you going for, and what is it meant to achieve?
We started this in Melbourne, part of this idea was using all Australian owned and made, given that Jardan is all Australian owned and made. That was really difficult, actually. We did that wherever we could, and as part of that process we came across this amazing Australian marble from Queensland, and also from Western Australian. In both the Sydney and Melbourne stores, we used some of this marble, and it was different and also used differently, but it was all from the same quality.
We’ve also tried to use Australian timbers for our joinery, and Australian stone. The stones really have personality, but in terms of colour palette, they’re quite fast. They actually pick up the tones in the showroom. It’s funny, they have heaps of quartz in them and they’re really quite loud and bold, but the actual colour is quite soft. It’s a funny contrast between texture and colour.
One of the things that’s developed is this idea that, wherever the product is – wherever the furniture is being displayed throughout the store – then the product is the hero. In these spaces, the architecture and interiors have to be of a lower volume, because the product is the high volume. But where there are some moments where there are no products – like the staircase in the Sydney store – then those are the opportunities for the architecture to be really loud, because it doesn’t have to support the product. In these places, the architecture has the opportunity to shine and become part of the Jardan story.
As a furniture store that is quite aspirational and in quite a residential sense, was there a need to make this space feel homey?
Part of the idea was that people could go into these showrooms and be inspired, but also aspire to not just owning a piece of furniture, but also these spaces. Or even just get ideas for their own home. They might be inspired by the furniture, or inspired by the space. We wanted visitors to be able to go in and imagine what a piece of furniture might be like at home, rather than a gallery style where, visually, your eyes can just jump from piece to piece to piece. The idea was to have it on a more domestic scale, then have people go to the showroom not just when they’re looking to buy, but just to look at the space and to even just hang out in there.