Art studio Te fit-Tazza’s new space in Valletta is a concept store that combines a retail area for its recently acquired gift brand, Souvenirs That Don’t Suck, and a community space for the studio’s collaborative projects.
Both areas have been carefully designed to reflect the differing ethos and functions of each brand. At the same time, however, the design also reflects the fact that both take Malta as their subject with inspiration for the look taken from local architectural and design elements but given a modern spin through colour, materials and accessories.
The design of the space was a team effort between Te fit-Tazza, Anna Horvath from Aha Objects who designed all the furniture and fittings and Pippa Cachia and Neil Pace O’Shea of Brief, who brought the designs to life through their customised woodwork. ‘We wanted to strive for a visual result that draws inspiration from the Maltese aesthetic, namely the postwar modernist Maltese homes from the Fifties to Eighties that we identify as being quintessentially Maltese, and bringing them into 2020 with a dignified and related manner,’ says Simon Buhagiar from Te fit-Tazza. ‘Anna transformed this brief into the actual site, added further materials such as the rattan, and also came up with the concept of interactive retail experience.’
‘We had an idea of the look, feel, and functions we wanted to achieve, and that we wanted more than a normal retail experience.’
The greatest challenge was the building’s small footprint – just 25 square metres both downstairs and up. ‘A wide range of products in differing sizes had to be stored but also showcased in different way,’ says Simon. ‘It was a challenge to create a clean and homogenous design but also accommodate all items.’ This was achieved thanks to dark walls that give an elegance to the display elements whilst also ensuring that the colourful products that are for sale stand out.
The design of the cabinets, with their graceful arches accentuated with rattan, took as their starting point the surrounding arches on the exterior of the building. ‘There is a repetitive pattern of arches throughout the whole square of St John’s and which also appear on the cathedral and we wanted to create a space that is in relation to its environment,’ says Simon. Also referencing the exterior environment is the terrazzo used for the display units which pick up on the pattern and colour of the Palladino terrazzo of the pavement.
Adding to the visual texture of the ground floor are four eye-catching pieces displayed in glass bell jars by Scenic Sets. ‘Offering something over and above a retail experience, we wanted to present the client with a set of concept pieces that would capture the attention as well as create a conversation,’ says Simon.
The upstairs community space which includes desks for hot desking and a workspace/recording deck, is reached via a spiral staircase that is hidden behind a door. Here the mood is calmer but still dynamic thanks to the use of colour accents found on furniture but also the objects stored in the floor to ceiling shelves.
‘On one side we created a curated wall from objects that served as key inspirations for our prints,’ says Simon. ‘On the other side, we made a composition of illustrations, designed specifically for this space. The yellow and red align with the visual aesthetics of Te fit-Tazza and as both elements are vivid in terms of colour; a light grey was selected for the backdrop.’
The end result is a stylish and characterful space that, says Simon, ‘stands between a retail shop and a museum and one that we are really proud of.’