Lifestyle concept store Zoobibi brings an appreciation for Asian artisanship and Middle Eastern markets to the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn. Half homewares showroom, half café, Zoobibi is purposefully designed to not be too photogenic: the space – developed by local studio The Stella Collective – is meant to look better in person than it does onscreen.

A spokesperson for the studio explains that the strategy acknowledges the ‘primal need to surround ourselves with more meaningful beauty’ at a time when everything is directed toward the digital. This ethos ultimately powers the soul of the store, which The Stella Collective refers to as a ‘retail sanctuary’. The team considered how each detail could increase the physical connection between visitor and space, relying heavily on highly tactile materials.

Filled with archways, Zoobibi is inspired by Syrian art and architecture, particularly that of Aleppo, where The Stella Collective’s director Hana Hakim has roots. A light-filled central courtyard clad in tiles, where visitors can dine and drink, is a case in point. Retail areas – all featuring a consistent neutral palette to complement the brand’s changing landscape of new wares – are organized by different living settings. As shoppers wander through, they’re encouraged to run their fingers over each and every surface.

Experience is certainly king in retail today, and social media-friendly features help attract new eyes. Zoobibi, though, indicates that a rich physical landscape alone can still leave a lasting impression.

Zoobibi has been submitted to the spatial design competition of the year – Frame Awards 2020 – for the distinction of Multi-Brand Store of the Year. Stay tuned for the project’s progress or submit your own best work for consideration here.