We're very excited to announce the opening of Noah Clubhouse, our two-story retail location in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. We were lucky enough to be able to take advantage of an amazing space, and outfit it in a way that's meant to convey the diverse set of interests and influences that make us who we are. There's no one better to explain how this came together than Noah Clubhouse's designer, Estelle Bailey-Babenzien.
Let's start at the beginning, how did you find the location?
When we saw the location, it almost immediately felt right. It was an empty shell with a few awkward walls and ripped-out flooring, but it had great bones and felt like a home. I knew this was a perfect space for the larger concept of Noah, a place that is a store by definition but a social club by design which is something Brendon and I have always planned to accomplish.
How does the clubhouse compare to other stores in Japan?
Most stores in Japan are gorgeous. They just do everything really well & with great taste when it comes to visual merchandising and quality. I’ve always been very inspired by the design of public spaces there. Our store is different in that, although it's of high quality, it doesn't feel precious, and the staff isn't formal, in the way traditional Japanese customer service typically can be. We’ve tried to create an environment that’s super relaxed. We really did design the space to be a great shopping experience but also somewhere you can feel comfortable to stop in and hang out with friends.
What makes it a ‘clubhouse’ and not just a store?
Brendon grew up working in a surf shop, where the people would come, hang out, and stay for a while. Happy hours, event celebrations and long conversations were part of the normal day-to-day. I've always wanted to design a store where consumerism wasn't the only focus--a place that feels comfortable and has multiple usages and functions. Together, our ideas were aligned in what a store experience should look and feel like.
How do you think shoppers reacted to the design approach?
I'm not sure. I think it's a bit of a challenge to get visitors to understand the clubhouse concept right off the bat. For example, the kitchen is fully-functioning, and we hope to host dinners utilizing the long study table upstairs — the point is there are multiple spaces within the space to sit, converse, and be active. But we realize this is a shopping environment at the end of the day, and that maybe these things are not obvious the first time you see them. Hopefully, the vibe will catch on, one thing that’ll help is that we plan to start selling the cookies and tea (using Brendon’s mum’s recipe!)
What other elements in the clubhouse make it unique?
The reception room is inspired by a mud room and a boat house, a place where you can leave your stuff at the door and feel welcomed. The open-plan living and kitchen area is a cozy space--the heart of the store. The landing is an incredible place to sit, graced by the art wall, which we were fortunate to adorn with the work of our friends, who are accomplished artists and photographers. The area is flooded with light, and I added the trees to flank the sofa to give off the feeling that you're outdoors. It's a space for people-watching and idea-brewing.
What are some of your favorite architectural components in the clubhouse?
The study, also light-filled because we opened up the ceiling to reveal skylights, is a great room to sit at the table and really take the time to look at and read the books, and check out the stationary and accessories. We added an outdoor balcony adjacent to the study which is another place to relax, absorb the sun, and hang with friends. The men's salon hosts two huge dressing areas. It's a room that feels luxurious, and where more of the high-end pieces are displayed. Inspired by a man's bedroom, this is the place to feel comfortable taking time to try on items, find the right fit, and appreciate the fabrics and environment.