How to Design a Sense of “Home” into your Retail Space
Evoking a sense of “home” in a retail space can be a key factor in getting your customers to not only linger long enough to make a purchase, but to keep them coming back. But creating this type of experience takes more nuance than simply adding a couch — here’s what to consider when planning your space.
July 9, 2019
Harnessing residential fusion in commercial design.
Sometimes, my couch calls to me. I could be at work, away on an errand, or even out at a party. When it happens, there’s literally nowhere else I want to be than on my big, plush daybed — a hot cup of tea in my hand, relaxing with a book or watching a show, surrounded by soothing colors, soft, natural light, some of my favorite music playing in the background… Sounds great.
Done right, an amazing retail space can be even more alluring. It might have a big couch just as comfy as my own, or music and color that reminds me of being safe and sound at home. But what is even better in those retail spaces, is that there are no obligations waiting for my attention: no errands to be done, or clothes to be picked up. A great retail space offers a sense of comfort, safety, and relaxation, distilled to perfection.
Some great retail brands, both big and small, have been hunting for ways to form deeper connections with their customers, and have started to incorporate certain residential elements into their experiences. However, just throwing a couch and coffee table into a space without careful thought, investigation, and design won’t forge the type of experiential bond that retailers are looking for. To do that, we need to dive a little deeper and break down what home really means to us.
Trigger Memories from Childhood
Our concept of home will always be tied in some way to our youth. For most of us, home is a place we were always welcome, where our family provided for us, gave us food, and soft, warm places to be safe. It is the source of our ideas about what elements make us feel “at home.” For some of us, that meant food and light; for others, good music and the feel of a favorite chair or carpet. For the luckiest of us, it means a sense of family and of belonging — a sense that “this place is for me.” It’s that deep-rooted, emotional feeling of home that some retail spaces are looking to create and offer to their customers.
Engage All Five Senses
The most obvious residential elements are experienced first visually, then tactilely. Color and soft seating are important anchors in the residential experience. But the thoughtful selection of these can take a space further: evoking a hearth, or a special place of “settling in” that reminds us of our own well-worn, plush, and inviting living rooms. (Or the living rooms we wish we had!) Once someone is drawn into the space, warm finishes with rich textures make for that tactile experience. Even a small area with heavy, cleft stone, or exposed brick, contrasting against warm woods can go a long way. Be careful, though, not to solely rely on these alone — creating an “indoor cabin” can have a Hollywood set feel — subtlety, as always, is crucial.
Remember those other senses? Music has a lot of power: blaring trendy Spotify lists isn’t going to make people feel at home. You’re never going to nail their favorites, but something soothing, playing softly in the background, might remind someone of a radio playing from the kitchen around the corner. And, don’t be afraid of background sounds!
Speaking of kitchens, smell is super powerful, as well, especially since it is linked very closely to our memory centers. Even if your space doesn’t offer food or drinks giving off aromas of their own, a thoughtfully-chosen, subtle hint of a scent can go a long way to triggering a comforting memory.
Pay Attention to the Human Scale
When you step into a commercial space, you are being welcomed into a community, and in space like these we are describing, an intimate one. Everything you are surrounded by is offered up to you with intention: a place to sit, something to drink, a collection of objects to capture your interest, curated specifically for your perusal. But intimate spaces require even more than the engagement of the five senses, they also rely on an even more ethereal experience: a sense of scale. You can’t fake intimacy. And in big open spaces with tall ceilings, making spaces that feel “just the right size” is everything. Dropping ceilings and favoring residential floor lamps with flattering horizontal light instead of harsh overhead cans is a good place to start.
Finally, all these elements need to weave together in an experiential tapestry that makes us feel safe, comfortable, and at ease. That’s the moment when a customer finds that couch and coffee table and chooses to settle into it, when they relax and let it all soak in. They might sip their drink or rest for a moment, and then make a decision about what memento they might choose from your collection to take home with them, and maybe, just maybe, the next time they are nearby, your couch might call to them, too.