For the Great World City outlet of The Dark Gallery, a chocolate patisserie, we designed a dual space: a fast-paced counter corner and a slower-paced salon-café, bound by a ribbon-like black-and-gold skirting.

As a fourth branch, the client wanted to expand on the concept of her established chocolate patisserie into a more distinct salon area, where people gather over chocolate, ice-cream and cakes to indulge in simple sweet pleasures, without losing the original “grab and go” concept of her existing branches.

We wanted to create 2 distinct spaces: one with a more transient quality and one with a more conducive environment to hang out and relax. The plan was deliberate to separate the 2 spaces as if they belong to different shops with the paying and display counter as a space separator.

The transient space is designed with a darker material palette, smaller seats, higher booth seats and standing counter to achieve the “grab and go” ambience. Being located nearer to the mall toilets, booth seats are also created to allow the occasional waiting partner to grab a quick drink or small cone of chocolate while waiting.

The slow space on the other side is designed with a brighter material palette, comfortable cushion seats and group settings to achieve the “salon” ambience. By using low fencing with fluted glass to enclose the café, the design intention is to create an alfresco ambience within a shopping mall interior to attract the afternoon gossip girls over cups of peppermint tea and hot chocolate.

Essentially, we wanted to create 2 distinct spaces that kind of belong to the same shop. To achieve that, the materials selection needs to be carefully done. Drawing inspirations from chocolate colours and the sensual visual of melting chocolate, we made us of a special laminate that has interesting grains that reminds us of melting chocolate although it appears as a timber-alike material. This became a key element to link the 2 different spaces together.

To differentiate the 2 spaces, we made use of colours and sound control elements to create the spatial difference other than the difference in physical size. For the transient space, we used acoustic panels to absorb the potential noise, whereas for the salon, more hard surfaces and low enclosures are used to allow noises from the common corridors to flood the space, just like an alfresco space where street noises come into the seating area. By designing hanging lamps, the spatial feeling of the streetscape is recreated, whereas normal cove and downlights are used in the transient side of the café.

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