Comprising a retail store and a café, the 560 sq ft store CRF resembles a research laboratory, but it is far from sterile. It is hard to miss the odd window display which comprises rows of black cubes with randomly changing LED lights indicating numbers. Asylum’s founder Chris Lee declared this as his favourite element of the store, as it distracts the viewer from the wall (or rather, lack of one and seems to be begging the passerby to “come in with an open mind”.
The grid-like layout is repeated in the rows of black-and-white storage boxes taking up the entire western wall. The design continues to play with the walls using bold elements like a ‘stone wall’ and a wall featuring ‘chocolate’ melting over its edge, such that one still has a strong feeling of how the service areas differ throughout the store, but with the loss of definite grid lines, gains a sense of being in a wonderland that is asking to be explored. The eastern ‘stone wall’, like the distressed wood and uneven flooring, adds texture to the place which would otherwise really come across as clinical. A mirror — designed to look like the two-way mirrors in research facilities — on the ‘stone wall’ beguiles one into thinking that the store is larger than it is.
The interiors’ understated design scheme plays up the centrepiece that greets the customers upon them entering the store: stacks of brightly packaged boxes containing chocolates. One side of the packaging features “scientific research” and the other features a design or photograph befitting the chocolate flavour: “blurry neon photography for alcohol series, animal hides for exotic series”. There are 100 flavours in all.
Even the furniture looked good to eat. The customised tables in the café where customers can enjoy chocolate drinks and brownies, were made to look like giant chocolate slabs.