“An exquisite reinvention of the cellar door experience,” was the jury citation on Foolscap Studio’s 2018 INDE.Award-winning Domain Chandon.
January 23rd, 2019
An hour’s drive northeast from Melbourne, winding roads cut through gum tree-lined hills before giving way to orderly rows of grapevines. As day-tripping city-dwellers and bus-loads of tourists will agree, the Yarra Valley gives many a reason to linger – sampling artisan products in idyllic surrounds being chief among them.
Domaine Chandon has been a local favourite since its introduction to the area by Moët & Chandon in 1986. Having applied its hallowed méthode traditionelle to Victorian grapes for over 30 years, the French Champagne house sought a refresh, engaging Foolscap Studio to deliver a layered fit-out which integrated areas for retail, intimate dining, casual sipping, as well as walk-in wine tasting.
“Initially they came to us with some operational issues that we needed to iron out through the functional planning of the space,” says Adele Winteridge, director of Foolscap Studio. “They have a customer base that swells and contracts throughout the week, so on the busy days, they were getting congested.”
Spatial flow was reoriented in consideration of foot traffic during peak periods, with a new concierge desk installed as a way to put a face to the brand, and direct people to the experiences on offer. Wine samplers on a whim can now access a dedicated walk-up bar at the entrance, with bigger groups given the option of heading upstairs to a bookable tasting room.
The existing central bar, a densely populated zone in the original planning, is replaced with an undulating banquette, a generous lounge seating option accessible from all sides which caters to the new casual bar area. Here, a large yet delicate kinetic mobile sculpture (developed by Andrew Hustwaite and Richard Butcher of S&K) rotates freely with circular motifs and movements evoking the spontaneous levity of bubbles.
In between the casual tasting lounge and formal dining area, an ornamental installation of wine marks one wall of the retail space. “We wanted to play on the craft of wine making, and connect this artisan product with the visual language you might associate with Louis Vuitton handbags,” says Foolscap’s Adele Winteridge.
Further into the space is the boutique wine store, and elegant sit-down dining. “Chandon was looking to improve the hospitality experience, but it was also important that retail was central to the redevelopment,” says Madeline Freeman, interior architect at Foolscap Studio. “We asked, ‘Do we need all of these boxes of bottles on display? Or can we find a better way of elevating the product?’” Looking to the prestige of parent company Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, known as LVMH, gave a cue to the treatment of the wine.
Along the wall dividing the store and the bistro, one of each bottle variety perches atop a fine pedestal at the centre of its own pearlescent circle, exuding all the artful flair of luxury handbags in a couture setting. Far from the rustic ‘bottle-o’ look of other cellar door stores which seem almost an afterthought.
“As a global brand, Chandon weaves a lot of threads together,” says Freeman. “It has a diverse appeal: Instagram-savvy Millennials alongside loyalist long-standing customers, as well as international visitors new to the experience, and local foodies in to design.” Winteridge continues: “Because Chandon has an international presence, this particular iteration of the brand needed to embody that worldly quality. But the flavour of this wine very much comes from the grapes which are grown right there on location, and that had an impact on what we designed. We wanted it to feel Australian.”
Textural Australian materials, including spotted gum timber and textiles printed by Indigenous artists, enhance the space’s design terroir. A particularly impactful feature is the uniquely variegated Chillagoe Dreamtime marble which wraps Chandon’s bar benches in the raw, complex beauty of honed rock. “A marble from Australia is almost unheard of!” Winteridge exclaims. “It’s mined in Queensland, it’s spectacular and the colours in it also informed the palette.”
A sophisticated neutral base palette of fresh white and serene Eucalyptus is accented by the inviting, warm hues found in wine – soft yellow champagnes, muted blush pinks and rich ochre. The entire space is bathed in natural light which pours in through a soaring arched window, giving visitors to the lounge area an expansive outlook to the vineyard and rolling green hills beyond.
“We felt that while there is a lot of depth in the design, that overall the space should be a backdrop to that beautiful view, in a way, and not fight with it.”
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