Go Bold Or Go Home – The Soaring Scope Darkroom Design Team
Five years ago Rhonda Drakeford and Lulu Roper-Caldbeck opened the design store, Darkroom as an antidote to the minimal and stark white-walled spaces available at the time. Their aim was to offer an entirely fresh shopping experience where customers could come and immerse themselves within the location.
Their often cheeky color and pattern pairings coupled with their signature black-walled space have made the flagship Lamb’s Conduit Street Darkroom store a hit—so much so, that they were invited to bring their unique design flair to Selfridges.
Here, Lulu reveals Darkroom’s origin story and shares how to energize a room of your own, and more.
What is the philosophy behind the Darkroom?
We have always been drawn to graphic patterns, strong color palettes and rich textures, a trip to Darkroom is one that engages all the senses – a place where our customers can feel inspired and discover something new.
Our products are merchandised in engaging and exciting still-lives — disparate items grouped together by color, pattern texture for example. This completely goes against the norm of merchandising by genre or gender.
Uninspired by big brands we instead choose to champion emerging and undiscovered designers and craftspeople whose work we sell alongside our own Darkroom-designed ranges. As well as this we have always believed that good design should be accessible for all and we work hard to bring together a collection of products that cover a variety of price points.
How did you and Rhonda meet and decide to join forces?
Rhonda and I (Lulu) have been good friends for almost 20 years. We initially worked together on a range of soft textiles as a sideline to my previous job in fashion and Rhonda’s running her own graphic design company. Our inaugural collection had a great response and left us with an urge to pursue the project further by creating more of our own designs. The next step of us having our own retail outlet and selling other designers work happened more organically after we fell in love with Lambs Conduit Street, and found the perfect space available to rent.
Being a very small team means we are always multi-tasking between managing our two retail outlets, website, press, marketing, business development and so on. Rhonda’s background means she is more hands-on with the design work and visual merchandising, whereas I tend to deal with more of the business aspects as well as overseeing the buying. However, within all these areas we work side by side as a team and nothing happens without the approval of one another.
What is the first thing you start with to decorate a space in an inspiring and energetic manner like your Darkroom store?
When designing a room, first and foremost one would look at the functionality of the space, and get an understanding the type of living environment it would be destined to be. A space should always have soul and reflect the people who will occupy it whether this is a domestic or commercial space — mixing old possessions with new gives a more honest and interesting narrative than buying a whole sterile look off the page of a magazine.
As with our own store, spaces should be experienced and engage the individual, which is why the use of color, texture and light are important in bringing them to life. Understanding the flow of a space is also hugely important, creating zones rather than having furniture line the walls like a doctor’s waiting room makes the difference between feeling relaxed or feeling awkward.
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