Design partners Wilson ID and Bent Architecture were engaged for the fitout of the South Melbourne store of The Essential Ingredient, a market-leading retailer and supplier of specialist, high quality culinary ingredients, cookware and books. Since its doors opened in 2017, The Essential Ingredient has made a memorable mark in South Melbourne.

Located in a building that carried the design legacy of several businesses from the past, the architects sought to create a dynamic space that would uniquely reflect The Essential Ingredient brand.

The first step was to give the store a prominent profile within the streetscape, which was achieved by creating a neutral framework for product display, making use of existing fixtures and fittings in addition to improving pedestrian access from the street and within the store.

The design team brought the store to spectacular new life using timber cladding and geometric apple green tiles to create a strong, inviting statement for the brand on the street front, with the large shop windows seamlessly drawing passersby into the new space.

For the store interiors, the original white colour scheme and several circular skylights were creatively transformed to a subtle, yet distinctive in-store experience.

“Our approach was to try to neutralise the interior by introducing a dark, monochromatic colour palette – of greys, black and white – while defining various moments with textural contrast,” says Wilson ID director Ian Wilson.

Colour is used cleverly, skilfully and sparingly, by way of contrast to draw the eye. Notwithstanding the calm and neutral effect, the dark colour scheme provides enough textural variation to lift the store’s interior, providing a backdrop for the product range, rather than competing with it. “The product is now the hero, with the background offering light and shade,” Wilson comments.

Bent Architecture describes the design outcome as “a diverse palette of materials, which have been overlaid to create a collage of textures”.

For instance, Midnight Blue brick tiles from Robertson's Building Products Pty Ltd were selected for the service counter for their “robust, non-precious, textured appearance, and their somewhat reflective quality, which gave it some life”. The bricks lend a monolithic quality, so the counter appears as an object in space, rather than a piece of inexpensive joinery.

For their efforts on The Essential Ingredient fitout project, Wilson ID received two awards at the 2017 Building Designers Association of Victoria’s building design awards in the Non-residential Design – Alterations & Additions, and Interior Design – Non-residential categories.

Photographer: Tatjana Plitt Photography