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What’s driving retail - Holism

Spatial designers Christophe Penasse and Ana Milena Hernandez, the duo behind Valencia-based studio Masquespacio, think of finishing materials as a holistic extension of a brand’s narrative.

Masquespacio is known for being able to tell a conceptual story through its projects. When you approach a space, how do you engage in research to make sure you’re sticking to that narrative with every touch point, material or object?

It is important for us to have a client that will open his or her mind and tell us why they’re starting a project. That brand story – and sometimes, history – often makes it to every corner of a space.

For example, take Antonio Ramirez, our client from the Albabel restaurant. He dreamed of bringing together Mediterranean gastronomy with his own Andalusian roots. That led us to use terracotta bricks in expected and unexpected places, as well as the raffia that stands in as a representation of Andalusian craftsmanship.

“…every brand space should be different, in order to provide the customer with a variety of experiences every time.”

In hotels, the ground-floor shop was a space travellers didn’t expect much from, beyond the random souvenirs and toiletries. Now, it’s become a branding spot and an actual experience in itself. Even the breakfast hall acts the same way. What do you take into consideration to make sure these spaces have a personality, but are still part of the hotel experience?

For starters, we don’t consider the dining space in a hotel as part of the property itself, but as part of the local community. So it’s a different level of holism!

So we think that’s the key: we approach these as open spaces where people from every corner can come and meet and connect, without the barriers previously established by hotels. Our aim on a design level is to create a totally unique experience that can work by day or night, with different setups for each moment. But then we make sure that, even as the design is different to that of the rest of the hotel, we connect it to the bedrooms via an overall colour and material palette featured in the small decorative details – it’s like an inside joke exclusively for the hotel guests, and that tends to improve the overall customer experience.

You recently worked with three different locations for the Kento restaurant in Spain. What makes each venue different from the other? And on the other hand, what makes these locations part of a whole?

We have always been big fans of Aesop’s approach to interior design, making every shop different but maintaining an identity without having to use a large amount of logos. We strongly believe that every brand space should be different, in order to provide the customer with a variety of experiences every time. It’s superb to be able to surprise your client every time they buy something in the new shop you opened.

So that’s why every Kento shop is an evolution of the previous one: you can see that the colour palette, lighting and furniture is the same for each shop, but it is applied in a different way and on a different element according to the location. The materials, on the other hand, evolve from one venue to the other, always trying to find a point of connection with the previous one – that’s why one store was made with a cement floor and concrete blocks, and the next one features mosaic tiles. And that’s how we keep things cohesive and familiar, but at the same time, surprising.

Publication date: 23.07.2019
Picture: Frame