Retail / Blog

More Moo

Published August 1, 2014 in Community, Retail, Staff, John Kuhn

The Atkins Farm cow continues to wander into meetings in our office. Eventually, he'll have a home at the new Atkins Market in North Amherst's Mill District.

Salon 241 Gets a Makeover

Published July 25, 2012 in Modern Design, Publications, Retail, Staff, Sarah Nolan

Rachael Chase and Sarah Nolan look back at the thought process that went into their redesign of Salon 241.

With fashion-forward clientele, highly-trained stylists, and a perfect downtown Northampton location, Salon 241 was looking to create an interior space to match their vibrant business. Our simple design approach utilized paint, lighting, and a new window treatment to completely transform the space while maintaining the existing layout and flow that were working well for the salon owners.

The results were so successful that our design was recognized as one of the best in 2012 by Salon Today, winning the Salon of Distinction designation!

By painting the existing acoustic ceiling tile grey, it became a backdrop for the custom gingko leaf graphic we designed to carry across the ceiling and wrap down the walls, activating the ceiling plane and adding movement to the long, narrow space. The graphic, painted by Jonathan Kohrman, also meanders down the stairs to the exterior of the building, inviting clients inside and acting as signage on the street for the second floor salon.

Ginkgo Leaf Patterning

Similarly, the painted faux wood grain on the existing register counter makes it new and graphically bold. Behind the counter, aluminum numbers in the salon's signature font are mounted on the textured brick wall together with the painted ginkgo leaf. The combination of the ginkgo leaf with the salon's font is so successful that it has since been incorporated into their print advertising.

Reception Counter

Energy efficient LED light fixtures replace incandescent track fixtures, drastically reducing the heat level in the space and providing more even light. Decorative pendants draw the eye to the register counter and waiting area. 


A golden thread curtain typically used in the theater provides a screen across the front picture window, casting lines of shadow and light that play across the floor like golden strands of hair. The amount of sunlight entering through the large street-facing window had made working conditions uncomfortable for the salon users, so the curtain serves to modulate the light while creating a very dramatic effect across the wood floors.

Dramatic Curtain

Tasting our first SIP

Published August 26, 2011 in Retail, Staff, Charles Roberts

A few of us were lucky enough to stop by SIP's house-warming event this morning.  The food and coffee are great, and the space feels wonderful! 

SIP will open officially on Monday, August 29.


Published August 18, 2011 in Historic, Modern Design, Retail, Staff

As construction comes to a close on SIP in Northampton, MA, we thought we'd take a moment to share some of the ideas that went into the design. KRA's Rachael Chase looks back at the project:

Sip is a new concept for a coffee shop in downtown Northampton, MA.  The customer experience is thoughtfully orchestrated through clean design, well thought-out circulation within a small space, and attention to detail.

From the street, green painted steps and slatted signage call your attention and invite you in.

Customers enter into an open hang-out space. A series of painted posts call you forward to the white tiled counter.

Move past the fireplace and retail shelves to order a drink,

and then head back toward the sunlight filled front to add cream & sugar and find a seat.  Dark gray wood flooring and black-stained plywood tables balance the light walls, and the natural "golden" stain on the Birch plywood warms the space immensely.

SIP encourages the customer to watch the brewing process; seats at the counter allow for interaction with the barista, as well as a view of the fireplace.  The coffee is made via a “slow” brewing process in which hot water is poured over freshly ground beans. Steeped with a special filter, the process is fun to watch and beautifully composed.

And for those (like me) who always add sugar to our coffee -- you might not need to; the coffee is deep and smooth.

Go sit down: Comfortable, long banquettes surround the front windows and give customers a place to congregate in the sunlight.

A long bar height table allows for conversation with people waiting in line or moving through – or turn the other way, and let a collection of magazines grab your eye.  Whether you're part of a large group or sipping solo, the space accommodates.

The existing building was the original Smith College Bookstore, and its long history is reflected in the leaded glass windows and the functional wood burning fireplace that the owners plan to light on special winter occasions. 

The modern aesthetic of the new enhances the old and brings it back to life.  By using birch plywood and an incredibly talented millworker, we were able to do custom furniture throughout the space.  The slats of the banquettes transition from a solid back to an open back to let the light pour in through the antique windows.

We worked hard to use the materials creatively to show them off, expose their layers, and showcase their strength and flexibility.  Even the lighting fixtures are made from plywood.

Sit on a cube by the fireplace; grab a stool at the counter to chat with the barista; congregate with friends around a bar-height table; or slide into the banquette and lose yourself in the trees.

Elegant and utilitarian at the same time, this is a real space to be used and enjoyed, comfortable and sophisticated.  Check SIP out: the people are fabulous, and even the bathroom is cool.

Ode to a Hawk

Published July 11, 2011 in Modern Design, Retail

Jason Zucco Photography captured Ode at its most hawkish.

Ode Grand Opening — Tonight!

Published September 10, 2010 in Retail

“Fashion with Compassion” Event.*

Friday, September 10th
Ode, 263 Main St 6-9 pm
Fashion, Food, Art, Good Deeds, and Good Company

Featured Artist:
Matreya Hughes of TULA, a beautiful line of hand designed and silk-screened tops, tees, and scarves.

Featured Charity Organization:

The Northampton Survival Center, which strives to improve the quality of life for low-income individuals and families in Hampshire County by providing food and other resources with dignity and respect.

*For the month of September, Ode will be donating 5% of all profits to The Northampton Survival Center.

Discovering Ode

Published August 11, 2010 in Historic, Modern Design, Retail, Staff

Sometimes, things just come together.

When we began working with Kristin Kelly to design her new women’s clothing boutique in Northampton, MA, she expressed a desire that the store provide an experience of discovery for the people who shop there.

With a great downtown building as the project’s starting point, we embraced Kristin’s idea and made many discoveries along the way. From our initial sketches through design, demolition, and construction, the experience of working on this project was one of collaborative discovery.

Ode, a new women’s clothing boutique: A design based on the idea of discovery.

The space began covered with layer upon layer of materials, prior owners covering the last tenant’s vision…

another layer of sheetrock,
dropped ceilings,

The layers were stripped away to reveal the bones of the 1850’s building beneath and to expose its hidden beauty: a plaster ceiling covered with medallions, a deep cove that encircled the rectangular space,

and brick party walls on both long sides, beautiful in their inconsistency and remnants—a wooden header from a former window, the occasional marble brick.

The structure of the building was exposed, the steel beam that moves through the space from storefront to back wall now playfully supported by wood columns.

To these discoveries, other found materials and objects were added: wide wooden floor boards from an 1800’s barn loft, antique trolleys, vintage pipe stands.

These materials are mixed with modern, clean lines: crisp white walls that float in front of the brick, a simple layout of dressing rooms and office that create display walls, nooks, and alcoves.

The spatial idea is also one of discovery. The wide open glass storefront, a modern juxtaposition, allows views through the full depth of the store – the eye drawn all the way back: the flooring wraps up and over a series of boxes creating the shoe display. Above them, a turquoise patina wall catches and holds the eye.

As you wind your way back, a series of discoveries: petite vignettes in lit alcoves, the clean white walls a contrast to the red brick, each holding a “closet” of clothes that tells a story: a character’s dress, shoes, a handbag. An old dresser spilling open to expose exquisite bits of clothing.

The columns also tell a story; each one a placeholder for antique tables, dress forms, and display. The register counter, placed to capture a view of the entire store for the employees, is a painted medley of enormous moldings, capped with black slate.

Finally, after you’ve woven your way through: a series of golden dressing rooms with linen curtains, just waiting for you to try it all on.

Rachael Chase

Ode, at 263 Main Street in Northampton, MA, is across from The Academy of Music and opens Tuesday, August 17. A special Grand Opening night will be September 10, during Northampton’s “Arts Night Out.”