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For the connoisseur – etc stores

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Contemporary wine stores by Kokaistudios

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Traditional European wine cellars have influenced the design of wine stores for decades. So much so, in fact, that the rustic look exemplified by wine barrels, crates and bandsawn wood floors has become something of a visual cliché.

It's a look that had no place in the design of the wine stores featured on these pages. Here, the wine bottles are mounted and illuminated like sparkling jewels in a fashion boutique.

The Altaya etc wine store chain in Hong Kong has another key point of difference, says interior designer Filippo Gabbiani of Kokaistudios.

"Traditionally, all wine varieties are sold together, reds alongside champagnes. But with this chain there is a separate store for each type of wine – Champagne etc, Bordeaux etc and Burgundy etc. Our main challenge was to customise a range of different retail spaces, some with small, awkwardly shaped spaces, while still creating a recognisable etc branding."

Gabbiani says although the wine market in Asia is relatively new, compared to western countries, the Hong Kong market is the most sophisticated in the region.

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"In Hong Kong wine is traditionally sold in one of two ways – through large supermarkets that have very eye-catching wine displays, or in conventional wine stores that aim to reconnect people with the essence of the wine. But few of these stores actually convey information – the people working in the stores have no experience of what they are selling. The etc stores are designed to fill this gap, and this point of difference is evident from the exterior."

Gabbiani says the window display is one of the defining features of each etc store. This incorporates a wood and stainless steel lattice for glass bottles that are empty, rather than full, and a single stainless steel display shelf. This is more commonly used for wine-related paraphernalia, rather than the wine itself.

"The shop windows are all about evoking the curiosity of passers-by," says Gabbiani. "The window displays are silhouetted against a bright background, with spot lighting on the etc signage. Even from the outside, it is evident these stores share nothing with tradition.

"On the interior each store is a sleek, glamorous space with gleaming Marmorino plastered walls in white and grey. The look has more in common with a fashion boutique than a conventional wine cellar."

But the designer says the look is not cold, thanks to the material palette. For example, wood still appears – notably in the window display units – but it has a sleek grey finish, which keeps the look contemporary, not rustic.

"We also specified hand-hammered stone for the floors, because this conveys a very soft look."

In addition, some of the furniture in the stores features light-coloured natural wood, teamed with glass and steel.

To keep the look uncluttered, there are stone benchtops for wine tasting with built-in sinks. These avoid the need for spitting bowls on the countertop. One table in a private room in the Bordeaux etc store has a built-in sink beside each placesetting.

Other innovations include touchscreens that provide information about the wines in each store. And there is an Aromaster installation in the Bordeaux etc store that offers scents of seven different wines. This display creates a welcoming, aromatic entry to the main shop floor, which is elevated above street level.

In the Champagne etc store, empty bottles jutting out from the wall create a fun display that replicates the traditional top-down storage of champagne.

The stores are used for regular wine tastings and special events, and Gabbiani says they have already become widely recognised by clients – both wine connoisseurs and novices.

First published date: 19 June 2013

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Credit List

Location Altaya etc Wine Shops, Hong Kong
Interior designer Filippo Gabbiani, Zoe Lee, Mark Shen, David Liu, Anouk de Lasparda, Jerry Zhang, Lea Lee, Kokaistudios, Shanghai
Project management Questor Consultants
Timber flooring Imodi
Wall coverings Marmorino by Danilo
Ceiling treatment Natural photo catalyst paint by Auro
Lighting Philips
Wine chillers Miele
Multi-touch screen monitor Samsung
Wine testing table Filippo Gabbiani
Security ADT Hong Kong