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The New Cardi's Really is Larger than Life

Written by Connie Post in Design & Merchandising, Featured Stories
September 2016

Converting existing buildings has always presented unique challenges. In the case of Cardi’s Furniture & Mattresses in Wareham, Mass., the challenge came in the form of a 22-foot load-bearing fire wall that separated the first 4,000 square feet of the former big-box home improvement store from the rest of the interior.

Faced with an immense obstacle that could not be moved, I decided to incorporate the wall into my vision, giving the wall a grand, Disney-esque design that’s part casual beach house—with the scale and proportions of a real home covered in shiplap so prevalent in this coastal community—and part hip, urban, industrial warehouse with enormous sliding barn doors and faux brick indicative of a downtown loft.

Consumers decide within seconds whether they will shop a store or turn and leave. To engage shoppers, it’s critical that the first few thousand square feet of any retail space deliver an immediate WOW! In creating the newest Cardi’s store, the architectural elements we applied to the wall make a dramatic statement designed to awe and intrigue customers and imbue the Cardi’s brand with a modern sensibility that will attract Millennials.

As customers pass through the grand entry, tiny white hanging orbs of light and an array of modern chandeliers beckon them forward. All are suspended from a 22-foot ceiling with exposed trusses and pipes painted in bird’s egg blue. Just beyond the wall, the ceiling drops to 14-feet and a series of large-scale drum shades lit with blue lights lead shoppers to the center hub of the 62,000-square-foot store, which is highlighted by a blue, circular cornice and string curtains.

Cardi’s brand identity is associated with blue. This is the first time I’ve ever used colored lights to subtly reinforce a brand, but the result is eye-catching, and draws you to the center of the store.

Along the way, customers are met with dynamic lifestyle presentations centered around massive fireplaces and large-scale windows featuring out-size graphics. When I say large graphics, I mean large, as in a surfer catching a wave that spans 30 feet. The look is young, artistic and energetic, and lends a sense of the fantastic to the shopping experience. In developing the look, I was inspired by presentations I viewed at the most recent Maison & Objet and while shopping in Paris, where the trend in new retail is definitely toward enormous graphics that set the scene for sofas and more.

Standout departments include bedding and youth furniture. The new bed department feels like a Pottery Barn catalog shoot, with shiplap, dark iron and beautiful wood floors. The kid’s area is my trademarked design, featuring brightly colored Chinese lanterns suspended from a door hanging from the ceiling. From the bright magenta entry to the really fun vignettes, the department really pops.

The new store, with its residential-style interior and mid-century accents, was designed to be a magnet for younger shoppers. The shopping experience here captures your attention at every turn, and the exciting space is easy to work as well. Thanks to the phenomenal sight lines we’ve created, walking down the center aisle, salespeople can keep an eye on customers without crowding them while they shop. That gives them the room they need to enjoy the WOW moments!

Connie Post is a retail design strategist, trend expert, author and owner of Affordable Design Solutions Connie Post International. She can be reached at missconniepost@aol.com.