How 50m² of inner city Melbourne retail space has given iconic Japanese cheesecake brand LeTao a new global design direction for its stores 

Interior design by K.Holland Architectural Interiors

From the designer:

Creating the flagship store of LeTao Australia required a deep dive into the spirit of Japanese design to extract the essence of what Australians recognize as Japanese. 

The new store in Swanston Street Melbourne has given the Letao cheesecake brand a new face for its debut in the Western market.

‘LeTao’ is already thriving in many Asian countries, but our client felt existing store designs in Asia weren’t appropriate for the western market.

So began a concept phase where we used imagery to define three design principals that Australians recognise as Japanese: minimalism, strict geometry, and raw materials.

The first led to a ‘less-is-more’ interior.

The simplicity combines with dramatic lighting to showcase the vibrant desserts as precious ‘jewels’, evoking a sense of luxury that also comes with purchasing and eating a LeTao treat.

The premises have a narrow and tiny footprint, so we drew a line lengthways with a change in colour to extenuate its length and create the illusion of space.

This also creates the clean lines for our second principal: strict geometry.

Thirdly, we deliberately chose a sparse selection of materials with a monotone palette, to compeiment the colourful products.

Large format porcelain tiles allowed us to have a singular floor-to-wall surface that perfectly imitates the earthy texture and durability of stone.

They also fitted our tight budget constraints, despite the luxurious looking large format.

The LeTao directors in Japan were initially concerned that our concepts were too modern. Their image of the brand was centred around a countryside aesthetic reflective of the Hokkaido region where the cheesecakes are produced.

We explained that our design also evokes a sense of connection to the earth with its stone inspired textures and solid rock-like forms.

By the end of the project, they were kindly declaring our store the example for future LeTao stores in all other European countries.

This project shows how interior design can make an important contribution to positive globalisation. It is our responsibility as designers to translate brands between diverse cultures and make them accessible the world over.

Also, it shows that a lot can be achieved with little.

Small space, few materials and fewer items combine to create a stronger message, and most importantly a more sustainable flagship store interior.

A singular bench that runs the length of the store is the centrepiece both conceptually and functionally. 

Conceptually, it is uncomplicated, strong and grounded, raw and earthy. Functionally, it combines the traditionally separate service counter, food display, coffee bench, prep/packaging bench, refrigeration, and storage into one.

It functions efficiently for staff and directs a comfortable, un-cluttered customer experience.

Broken in three sections for ease of circulation, we made it look continuous with the jagged ends that are reminiscent of an ancient stone ruin. 

It also dramatically penetrates the shopfront, engaging with pedestrians and enticing them into the store.

Designed by: K.Holland Architectural Interiors

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Kristoffer Paulsen

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