Total Colour Award winners

making the space

High Street

Jo McColl, owner of independent bookstore Unity Books on High Street, recently acquired the lease for the neighbouring retail space to expand the children’s book section into its own space.

Unity Books on High Street

Tom Dobinson and Sophie Edwards were approached to design a fit-out that would make the most of this 27 square metre irregular shaped corner shop. The length of the shop, while constraining circulation, provided excellent window and interior display opportunities. The space had been neglected and underutilised throughout its recent tenancy history. The design, of the window displays especially, was key to establishing a second successful bookshop.

With that in mind, our focus was to use simple, durable materials in a graphic and formal way to appeal to children and adults alike. A huge part of this was the choice of colour and texture. The colour scheme needed to stand the test of time as well as reflect the unique and longstanding character of a shop that has made its mark on High Street over the last 30 years.

Unity bookstore - childrens books

The aim was choosing colours that would work hard – bold enough to appeal and communicate the nature of the books for a young audience, without being overbearing or reductive. The books themselves lend so much texture and vibrancy to the small space that the sought after middle ground in colour selection was a feature and a backdrop at the same time.

Unity book shop high street

Unity book shop high street

One way this was achieved was by limiting the material and colour palette to greens and clear finished timber. The combination of warm pine surfaces and the deep stain Resene Earthsong are contrasted by solid punches of Resene Laurel. The display shelves running across the length of the High Street frontage provide large views through to the layers of books and both greens on the interior of the store. In this way, the pairing of Resene Earthsong and Resene Laurel is further enhanced through depth of light and shadow in the shop. Columns and walls in Resene Zylone Sheen in Resene Black White provide a neutral background. The hope is that the colours work to create a space both surprising and familiar.


Childrens books

As the interior stained surfaces are not exposed to much direct sunlight, different dilutions of Resene Earthsong could be tried, which gave the flexibility to select extra transparency with an 80% not 100% mix to suit the tone and grain of the timber it was applied to.

The large fixed mirror at the rear of the store makes the tiny space feel larger and creates the illusion of the large bank of shelving continuing further into the shop. The mirror forms a crisp line against the oversized storage doors in Resene Laurel, which hold their own as a large block of colour, and which contrast the texture of books on every other surface of the space.


Architectural specifier: Tom Dobinson and Sophie Edwards
Building contractor: Edwards Builders
Client: Unity Books
Photographer: Nicholas Dunning
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2019

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