Architect Mark Landini plays hide and seek at a new Sydney jewellery boutique
It took two years for Australian jewellery brand Sarah & Sebastian to find the snug location for its first flagship store in Paddington, Sydney. ‘We knew we wanted something small scale with a lot of light,’ says co-founder Sarah Gittoes of the narrow floor-to-ceiling glass space, once destined to be a café or dessert bar.
Obsessed with the intricacies of retail design – like the cupboards and shelves which would be used to display Sarah & Sebastian’s handcrafted pieces – Sarah Gittoes and co-founder Robert Sebastian Grynkofki, who established the brand in 2011, teamed up with Sydney-based architect Mark Landini to realise their retail vision. ‘I remember leaving our first meeting feeling so excited,’ Sarah Gittoes says. ‘He turned all of our ideas on their heads.’
The brand’s preoccupation with the physicalisation of product was deftly inverted, with Landini suggesting Sarah & Sebastian use two-way mirrored cabinets to display their designs, inspired by disparate influences including Olafur Eliasson, Sol LeWitt, Fred Sandback, and deep sea diving. On entry, customers are simply faced with walls lined with mirrored surfaces. Only when they request their areas of interest – price point, a bespoke commission, an engagement ring – do the mirrors turn to glass, revealing the designs within.
‘When you walk into the store everything is concealed’, Grynkofki says. The concept, which is controlled by a bespoke lighting system, encourages an immersive customer experience, inspiring them to interact with the space and unearth the secrets of its design. ‘We didn’t want the boutique to reveal all everything at once, which you get with e-commerce sites,’ Sarah Gittoes says. ‘When we had a pop-up store in our Sydney showroom we found that customers had already researched online exactly what they wanted to buy.’
The duo was motivated to open their first flagship after they opened their local studio to the public, and found that customers were reluctant to leave. ‘They were so fascinated to see our jewellers at work,’ Sarah Gittoes explains. The brand’s boutique aims to bring the wonders of the workshop in. Its copper inlay custom built sales desk doubles up as a jewellery bench. ‘It’s that level of exploration which really enhances the customer experience,’ confirms Sarah Gittoes.