Using story and scent to create lasting memories.
STEM Handmade Soap is a retail store that specializes in natural and artisanal handmade bath products. STEM's flagship store is located in Lakewood, Ohio. STEM hired Richardson Design for their first expansion location, a stall in the Van Aken Market Hall in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
STEM required extensive display and storage space to house their product line of handmade bath products, a cash wrap, a television for promotional and demonstration videos, and a hand-washing station for customers to test hand soaps and body scrubs. All of these elements needed to fit inside the two 10 x 10 foot stalls in the Van Aken Market Hall. The stall envelope consisted of an open metal structure with a slatted wood ceiling, provided by the Market Hall and also designed by Richardson Design.
STEM not only uses all natural ingredients, they also grow some of their own ingredients used in their products. Richardson Design took this to develop a design concept that combined a greenhouse and a potting shed for the overall aesthetic, emphasizing the importance of their natural and handmade products. Richardson Design developed custom design display shelving and a storage system that is modular and freestanding, combining wood and metal, and fabricated locally in Cleveland. The custom bath bomb bins were designed so that the bombs can stack neatly and symmetrically within the boxes.These bins are reminiscent of the old time feed stores where items were purchased in bulk and scooped out of wooden boxes. Additional inventory can be stored in the closed bottom portion of each of the shelving units.
Product sampling and testing is important, so the creation of a concrete sink with copper faucets and a tile base for a washing station in the heart of the space draws customers in and allows them to try hand soaps and scrubs. The sink’s tile base has a vintage feel and design, and the neighboring cash wrap (clad in wood, soapstone and corrugated metal) creates a contrast to the semi-translucent structural acrylic that make up the back panels of the modular shelving units. These panels are the same material used to construct greenhouses. A wicker basket light fixture cluster is suspended in the center of the space, adding light and representing what you might use to gather your herbs and plants to make your skin care products.
The Market Hall combines local food vendors with retail, and since the Market would be open longer hours than STEM, it was necessary to develop a security gate design to secure the space, but that integrates into the stall’s overall design and the structural surround provided by Market Hall. Richardson Design developed sliding metal mesh gates that were constructed with a metal panel similar to the vintage panels you’d see on vintage radiator covers. The sliding gates also support signage and promotional material, ensuring that every inch of space was being utilized.
Our goal was to assist STEM to visually express the story of their brand and create a memorable experience for their customers. Through our collaboration with STEM, we designed a space that reflects STEM’s products — authentic, clean, natural and artisanal.
Richardson Design, LLC
Photography: Paul Sobota Photography