Freshly picked

Much of the success of Apple, the world’s most valuable company, is attributable to the vise-like control that late Apple chief Steve Jobs, the business leader with the personality-cult following, maintained over every aspect of Apple’s public image. So it may come as a surprise that Apple has a program for independent retailers known as Apple HQS (high-quality store). The retailer hires an interior designer recommended by Apple and Apple signs off on the design.

Apple’s generic mall-store design is a familiar fixture on the retail landscape, with trademarked features including windows framed by stainless-steel panels; grey ceiling, walls and floors; and blond- wood Parsons display tables. The mission of the duo from Toronto design boutique Pulsinelli, comprising founder and principal Nino Pulsinelli and designer Sia Mahdieh, was to create a store that diverged from this model by giving it a distinctive look. 

Apple specialty stores, Pulsinelli explains, are a more streetfront-oriented operation and targeted to a specific demographic, “like when you go into a Starbucks café and you feel it’s part of the neighbourhood.” To that end the mission statement, near the front of the store -– a 1,500-square-foot Apple HQS on Toronto’s Bloor Street West – cites Toronto luminaries Jane Jacobs and Marshall McLuhan, helping it resonate with the locals. To reflect the neighbourhood’s demographic, the designers use organic shapes, natural woods and all-LED lighting to evoke sustainability and a connection to nature. 

From the get-go, the store has the feel of an art gallery. Instead of a flat front, the facade features an off-centre U-shape that creates a recessed entry area; access is through a door on the side of the main, glassed-enclosed display area. The designers removed the storefront’s bulkhead and relocated its mechanicals, allowing for a two-foot-taller glass expanse. They also pushed back (by two feet) the rear wall of the display vitrine, at the right of the entry, to enlarge the display area and
make it more useful.

The art-gallery concept is apt because the display furnishings are custom art pieces rather than off-the-shelf hardware. The taupe coloration of the durable and dirt-concealing porcelain-tiled floor mediates between the wood tones and the pristine white walls. LED strip lighting outlines the principal forms of the display furnishings and emphasizes their volumes.

Upon entering, the first thing the customer encounters is the iPad table. Farther along is the principal display fixture in the store, the interactive table. Here, customers are made to feel welcome to interact with (or, in plain English, to
try out) product on their own, without feeling pressured by sales staff. All according to Apple’s criteria for product display -– but, like much else here, freshly interpreted.  cI