Anston Architectural makes bespoke concrete products for designers of exterior space. They leased a retail space in the eclectic and industrious inner Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford. Dan Gayfer Design team was approached to design an interior that would showcase its bespoke concrete products.
“Although their products have traditionally been developed for the outdoor environment, a number of pieces such as bench tops, fireplace hearths and cobbles are now being considered for interior use also. The product, hand-made locally in Melbourne, is of extremely high quality and thus regarded as premium within the design industry,” says Dan Gayfer.
As he further explains, the first brief from the client was concerned with how to best display its products from a retail perspective as opposed to focusing on a specific aesthetic for the showroom interior.
“In other words as long as the product itself was displayed in a highly effective manner, there was no specific ‘wish list’ as to how this was physically achieved,” he says. “Of course, it was outlined by Anston exactly which of their products were to be displayed as well as the demographic that would most likely visit the showroom.”
A series of small spaces have been designed, each displaying Anston’s products in both typical and unexpected applications. Rather than having to visualise the suitability of its concrete products, the customers can physically interact with them inside realistic everyday settings, such as a dining terrace, outdoor shower booth or entertaining lounge.
Closer to the rear of the showroom an interior flavour takes hold; a wine bar, communal workstation and even bar stools all employ the product in a surprising, yet logical manner.
“Conceptually, the design is strongly based upon the idea of creating a series of spaces and settings, which are almost theatre like in their arrangement though the customer can either be audience or actor,” Gayfer continues. “They can meander through the showroom viewing each setting but, if desired, can physically enter each setting to ‘act out’ using the product in a realistic situation thus testing its suitability.”
One such setting is the outdoor shower booth – a walk in shower has been created complete with shower rose, mixer and feature garden. All surfaces of the booth both vertical and horizontal have been finished in Anston cobble; one considering an outdoor shower can enter the booth to experience this product ‘in-situ’ as opposed to simply determining its suitability through holding a singular cobble.
Along with the outdoor shower booth there is an outdoor dining terrace with seating bench and dining table, a feature garden with spherical concrete sculptures and an outdoor living terrace complete with fireplace, daybed, timber storage and concrete hearth.
He says: “Perhaps more unexpected but increasingly relevant are the two interior settings that complete the series – a wine/coffee bar with concrete bench top and wall tiles and a workstation with feature wall lining; the latter a requirement for Anston staff to attend to administration tasks when working in the showroom. The striking workstation is in the form of a generously sized communal desk, this suspended from above by angular steel work.”
As Gayfer explains, this idea of a floating table is integral to the overall concept. Its perceived weightlessness provides a ‘lightness’ to the interior while also highlighting the concrete through this definition of light and heavy.
In addition to creating these realistic experiences, a number of unexpected yet pragmatic bespoke furniture pieces were designed in which the concrete was a major component. A coffee table with concrete top was designed to complement the outdoor seating lounge along with a set of stools with a concrete disc on custom steel frame.
“With a clear risk of compromising the product for sale, a diverse palette of other materials were employed and not always subtlety,” explains Gayfar. “Conceptually the design isn’t afraid of other materials competing with or ‘partnering’ Anston’s product so to speak. Rather, and as long they were selected and applied with the utmost of consideration, they are aimed to only enhance the experience of the concrete elements.”
Timber is prominently featured in the interiors in the form of an American Cherry timber veneered plywood and Spotted Gum battens. The veneer is present in wall lining, shelving and the workstation table while a Spotted Gum bench is a focal point intersecting the shower booth and entertaining terrace.
The other major player in regards to materials is tubular steel painted antique gold. The steel is prominent in the diverse range of bespoke furniture designed and constructed for the showroom, its flexibility as a construction material utilised to create an outdoor dining table, planters, a suspended workstation and a shower booth.
“The metallic finish introduces yet another finish and texture into the design, furthering this concept of diversity over repetition,” explains Gayfer. “The steel also plays an important role in that it has been used to define or more so ‘outline’ each setting in the design through skeletal applications such as framework, overhead canopies, borders and step edges. In some cases the steel runs from one setting to the next ensuring a seamless transition from one to the next.”
Indoor plants and cushions upholstered specifically for the showroom complete the settings in the showroom. The lush and deep green foliage that is typical of indoor plant species brings further life and movement to the design.
“The use of the plants is very deliberate in that they juxtapose concrete perfectly,” he adds. “Most importantly the plants can be seen in use with Anston’s product, their impact when used in tandem with concrete able to be experienced first-hand by the customer. The cushions bring a final soft touch to the interior putting the finishing touches to each of the showroom settings and ensuring that this concept is translated successfully into built form.”