The fit-out

The fit-out

Just over a year ago, in November 2022 I was handed the keys to the yet to be named Iris Store + Studio.

Five months earlier in July, I’d thrown in the towel on what I’d decided was my final attempt to work in the beauty world in Wellington. I was trying something just outside my previous work experience to see if there might be a future for me in that sphere. It turned out no. The towel was thrown in with a giant internal tantrum as I seethed “I could do this so much better”. And just like that I was browsing commercial real estate listings.

After two or so weeks of nothing new (and within my budget) coming available for lease, I reached out to the lovely Dave whose name I’d spotted on nearly all the commercial real estate listings in town. After briefing him on what I wanted in a space, which was quite the laundry list, he said he had no listings that matched right now. But then in a flash of inspiration, said he’d had a call that morning from someone wanting to assign their lease which he hadn’t yet taken action on. I went to visit the space in my best incognito (dark glasses, trench coat, tape measure tucked away in my pocket). It was perfection.

Iris Store + Studio before        photo: Amy Schulz Photography 

As someone who has to go into somewhat robust negotiations for sign off on new furniture or homewares at home, it was quite exciting to have a blank space to make my own. Said space was a retail tenancy in The Dominion Building, formerly inhabited by Wishbone.

Iris Store + Studio before                           photo: Amy Schulz Photography 

Having a store to design, a place where I would spend all of my foreseeable working days was exciting and terrifying in equal measures. I’d decided to do all of the things. Store, Studio. Skincare, fragrance, hair care, makeup, brows, lashes, facials. We needed defined spaces for each of these and 78a Victoria Street had the perfect bones. However, I have zero ability to picture things which don’t exist in reality, and visualising dimensions out of context makes my brain explode. Using my partner’s phenomenal skillset, we created a 3D render of how I saw the space unfolding to allow us to test sizing and placement of furniture. And colour! I had zero desire to recreate the billowing-white-curtain-cream-linen-chill-but-no-vibe spa spaces. Nor did I want the blinding-fluorescent-light-bright-colours-aren’t-we-young-and-playful feel of big box beauty retailers. I wanted a space to build relationships with our customers, where they (and we) felt energised.

A happy place if you will.

Iris Store + Studio fit out

I started by wanting all out terracotta walls and ceilings. Apparently at the time I would mumble something about the space needing a womb-like ambiance. I wanted 'warm and cozy'. Take that how you please. Wonder Group, the studio I’d commissioned to help me design the space vetoed the full womb vibes but let me keep the terracotta to demarcate different zones. We also chilled out the depth of the colour by tapping a shade with slightly more peach from Aalto paint, who's products reflect light differently from your everyday, run of the mill Resene. The result is a lightness to our retail area, with cozy feels in our brow bar and facial cabins.

        photo: Amy Schulz Photography 

Our custom furniture – the warm walnut shelving, cupboards and massive central table were built by Hedge Furniture in Johnsonville. By the point in the fit out where we were finalising furniture, I was a very wound-up stress bunny and Abe had the fantastic ability to work with someone who could make absolutely no decisions nor verbalise what she wanted. We met up a few times to confirm we were on the same page with heights and measurements, making sure everything the designers had specced was going to be fit for purpose.

        photo: Amy Schulz Photography 

I could write an ode to my partner Corie at this point. Wonder Group had included an image of a tiled window display in their mood board and once I’d seen that I couldn’t have anything else gracing our window. A LOT of the summer of 2022/23 was spent in our garage building the tiled plinth you see as you walk passed. Using actual tiles would have been crazy spendy and super heavy so that was out, instead we used MDF to create “tiles” which we layered with a PVA glue mixture and paint to create the perfect ceramic texture. He also laid the floor in our treatment rooms, carried our massive Bird of Paradise (Boris) down the many, many stairs from its previous home in the hills of Roseneath, hung the curtain for our kitchenette, put up coat hooks and shelves, set up speakers and conduit, gave me pep talks and cuddles. All the things. All the support. 

Iris Store + Studio Plinth        photo: Wellington, NZ

There are many lessons I learned during our fit-out which I could share, but to be honest, there is not much I would change about our space. We’ve been here for a year now and there are minor adjustments being made to help with say merchandising our window, and maximising storage for, well everything really. And bag hooks for the brow bar.

I love the space, as does everyone who visits us. We've created something really unique and special in the beauty world and for the beauty world. 

Next stop... Iris Christchurch? 


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.