When your business rises and falls by the exquisite and unique quality of your taste, any fit-out that takes place in your premises must live up to that same rigorously high standard.
That’s why, when it came time for their long-awaited fit-out, specialist furniture retailers Dan and Emma Eagle engaged not a retail shopfitter or architect but Gidon Bing, who’s best known as a sculptor and ceramicist.
Good Form is a separately-branded ‘shop in a shop’ that sits within the premises of the Eagles’ main store, Mr Bigglesworthy. The Mr Bigglesworthy brand focuses on restored vintage imports and restored local vintage furniture, while Good Form sells smaller Kiwi brands and imports new modernist design pieces.
“Some of the companies that made the vintage pieces we’ve restored, they still exist, and they’re producing very design-focused, modern pieces,” Dan Eagle says. “We wanted to sell these pieces too, which is how Good Form came into being.”
Under the Mr Bigglesworthy brand, the Eagles have been present in their Ponsonby retail space since 2013. Dan Eagle describes the large warehouse-style space as “a big step up” in rent from the business’s first premises, which was a shared space in Mt Eden that measured 20 by 40 metres.
When they moved into the Ponsonby space, it had the crucial attributes of being large and central, but Dan Eagle says the kitchen and office area were “cheap and nasty”. They made the best of its industrial vibe for several years while saving towards its renovation, and carried out the upgrade over several stages.
Bing completed the new kitchen two years ago, and at the time, the Eagles discussed having him install “something bigger” but had to wait for their budget to catch up before the next stage of the fit-out could begin. It was finalised early in 2018.
Phase two of Bing’s fit-out is referred to as ‘the pavilion’. It’s a roofless space in a corner of the Mr Bigglesworthy shopfloor flanked by a bank of modular wheeled seating and plywood-panelled walls. Most of Good Form’s stock fits inside.
Dan Eagle says the couple had initially hoped to use the pavilion as a space for Emma Eagle to work on their business, but the completed pavilion structure was so intriguing that customers couldn’t resist coming in to get a closer look.
“It’s just so nice and it feels so fancy,” Dan Eagle says. “It kind of delineates the other space but it’s still open.”
As well as the pavilion, the new update includes cantilevered plywood wall displays installed around the wider Mr Bigglesworthy store. The space had no existing storage or back room when the Eagles first moved their business in, so the extra storage beneath the shelving has been a real boon.
The Eagles first met Bing at an event, where they discovered in conversation that they had similar design influences, admired similar architects, and had even interacted before through a deal on Trade Me.
The couple asked Bing to create something “simple, elegant, and linear” for their store. The finished fit-out would need to be attractive while not outshining the products, and avoid clashing with the furniture’s various styles.
“We still had a budget that wasn’t exactly massive,” Dan Eagle says. “I kind of trusted that we had the same sort of aesthetic from the start.”
He says there’s a real synergy between the resulting fit-out and the two brands’ design ethos: “I think the best designs, with our products, are so good they just fit into your life and you don’t even notice them but when you look back, you go, ‘That was very well done.’”
Bing does have form when it comes to fit-outs, and Good Form isn’t his first retail space either. Most recently, he’s made some ceramic tiles for New Zealand apparel retailer Kowtow’s first store in Wellington in collaboration with interior architect and designer Rufus Knight.
Bing says he views interior work as an extension of his long-standing interest in carpentry.
For the Good Form fit-out, he looked to gallery spaces for inspiration: “They need to be flexible and modular.”
“We had a holistic approach. We knew it was going to be a staged fit-out so we didn’t design it piecemeal,” he says.
Bing wanted the pavilion to delineate Good Form’s space without cutting it off, creating a multifunctional area. It’s psychologically delineated from the Mr Bigglesworthy space, and creates a sense of intimacy underneath the shop’s high stud.
The birch plywood displays and linings installed against the main shop’s walls are both functional and utilitarian, Bing says.
“[The plywood] is organic and it’s got a bit of feature to it, but not so much feature that it creates noise,” Bing says. “It’s a fairly utilitarian backdrop for furniture and fittings.”
He’s pleased that what he’s created at Good Form and Mr Bigglesworthy will be scaleable “without succumbing to momentary fads of fashion”. Bing describes the Eagles’ business as being about “true modernity”.
Despite its beauty, Dan Eagle says the new fit-out isn’t just an exercise in art for art’s sake.
“Rents are going up and people are accepting of online retail, so if you’re going to have a big store like this, you have to be careful and put a lot of thought into the retail experience,” says Dan Eagle. “It’s got to offer something online doesn’t. It’s got to earn the investment you’ve put into it back.”
“Just to get people through the door now, you’ve got to offer them an experience you can’t get online.”
From left: Dan Eagle of Good Form and Mr Bigglesworthy, and Gidon Bing