Field of dreams

28 May, 14

Philippa Turrell talks to MD of Original Bathrooms about effective windows

When I mention to the managing director of Original Bathrooms in Richmond, Andrew Shanahan, he could be considered ‘Mr Selfridge of bathrooms’ for his theatrical window display, he smiles wryly. Although rebuffing the compliment, he then admits he has worked for Selfridges, among a list of recognisable luxury retail brands. His latest window creation ‘Spring is here’, is a meadow of basin ‘petals’, complete with butterflies, and accompanied by Grohe ShowerFlowers. It forms just part of his rolling programme of work throughout the year. It’s an unusual take on window dressing for a high street bathroom showroom, as most retailers tend to opt for a more traditional route with a conventional room set. “I don’t know many other people who do what I do”, agrees Andrew, quickly pointing out “but that’s not to say there aren’t any good, creative people out there.”

 Regular window refreshes 

In fact, Andrew changes the windows displays every three months and he says there is nothing ‘off the table’ to catch the attention of passers-by. For the Diamond Jubilee, his windows became a throne room with a WC on a podium– well what else? And even when his windows are in the process of being altered, the company simple pulls down a pair of cheeky black and white blinds, with one showing an image of a women in the 1950s sitting on a stool pulling up her nylons stating “we are changing” and the other blind is a guy getting out of bed in his underpants which reads “our windows”. “Because bathrooms can be fun” expresses Andrew.

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 Roomsets and galleries 

But the same unconventional approach doesn’t flow throughout the showroom “because at the end of the day you have to put product in place and give people and idea of what it might look like” says Andrew. From the main, arterial route through the showroom, customers can discover a mix of roomsets and galleries, while pops of colour have been introduced by luxurious wallpapers. But one thing that is noticeable is the lack of brand signage. “I don’t put brand names anywhere in the showroom. I don’t like that”, Andrew recoils and with a little encouragement adds “I think it looks cheap and tacky”. Instead, he believes each display should be able to tell a story. “I think it’s important with a product to say it’s not just a tap or a basin. When you’re spending £2,000-£3,000 there needs to be a justification of it. As a shopper when you go in and say I really like this and [the salesperson] says ‘yes it’s really nice’. It doesn’t really engage [the consumer] in conversation.”

 Adding to space

Original Bathrooms will soon be adding to its showroom space, with an upper space dedicated to Flaminia. And to launch the new area, naturally the windows will once again be a focus, with Andrew promising “extreme, edgy” product displays. But he also points out, this latest addition does not signal the end of showroom refreshments and the studio continues to be an ever-changing landscape: “I have a philosophy in life that is ‘the best party is the next party’, which basically means if this is the best we can do we’ve reached our limit and we’ll not progress. As much as we get lots of positive comments about the showroom, I think there’s more we can do and more to push the envelope.” He adds: “It’s not trailbrazing but it’s just about doing things a bit above the average.”

The full article appears in the June issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News