Showroom might be one of the most tranquil spaces nestled within the hubbub of Brisbane’s CBD, but, behind its calm exterior is a flurry of savvy artisans recreating the way we shop.
Online shopping in convenient, but traipsing through Showroom will have you declaring your undying love for the hands-on retail experience. Wistfully cocooned inside a heritage downtown loft at 104 Edward St, the store is an entirely new and entirely beautiful concept that bridges the gap between online and retail.
Showroom’s shelves are artistically laden with the wares of popular and burgeoning web-based designers so that shoppers can get tactile with their online loves. Stylists and bloggers guest-curate an ever-changing array of instore pop-ups so we can wrap our hands around the delicate tea cup we searched for whiling away the time on public transport, or snuggle into the boutique armchair that is the jewel of our Pinterest board. What’s more, you can even meet the person who made it.
Aside from being online in real life, Showroom is a hub “where creatives and design lovers meet”. There is a full calendar of events, workshops and Insta-Meets where like-minded design lovers come together to learn new skills and socialise.
And all of this is the beautiful brain-child of blogger, photographer, online retailer and savvy business woman Catherine Roberts. We caught up with Catherine and picked her entrepreneurial brain on all things retail and design.
Showroom gets our vote for Brisbane’s most beautiful store. How would you describe your aesthetic?
My style is quite paired back and referential. I love quality materials worked in an unfussy way. And I love the clean-lined heritage designs for the way they feel warm yet modern – a simple Falcon enamel camping mug is my idea of design perfection.
Showroom bridges the gap between online and in-store shopping. Was there any particular lightbulb moment for you in coming up with the concept?
I started out blogging when I first moved to Australia almost five years ago, having met my Brisbane-born husband when were were both living in England. Through taking photographs around my home and kitchen, I discovered it wasn’t possible to find the styling props I wanted here – like cast iron skillets and mason jars and kraft paper shipping tags. From there I started a little online store and a market stall. That went well so I opened a pop-up shop for about a month, and that’s what sparked the idea for Showroom.
Initially Showroom was to be a collective of local artisan pop-ups housed in a beautiful, permanent location. The model has evolved significantly over the past 16 months, but I always expected it to. For me, Showroom is a laboratory where I get to play with ideas about how to humanise and innovate in retail, both online and in store.
Why do you think it’s important to preserve the traditional shop-front?
Because there is no substitute for ‘the real world’ and I don’t think the point of digital is actually to replace actual experience, only to enhance it.
It’s clear to me that our consumer brains have been rewired by the internet and social media; we’re more design literate, more selective, our appetite for content has grown, we’re more attuned to the stories brands tap into to give their products meaning, and we’re more invested in how our own identities as individuals and members of particular communities are shaped by them.
I’m interested in how we can amplify the best of these trends and deliver a heightened experience in a space where we as living, breathing humans gather.
When you’re sourcing products and brands to stock, what are you looking for?
Curation and a strong point of view are paramount to Showroom’s success. I have a clear sense of how I want the store to look and feel, and I seek out artisans, brands, and products that fit my vision. We’re not to everyone’s taste, certainly, but people who love what’s presented in store and online love it in its totally, and that’s what I’m going for.
To be honest, I make most decision about the editorial content of Showroom on the basis of what I personally like and the stories behind the people who make the things.
Your all-time favourite homewares designer?
I’m too eclectic to have one favourite! I like to take pieces from here and there – my favourite places to shop for my own home are antique markets.
Which local designers should we be keeping an eye on?
Who would be your ultimate guest-curator to work with?
Kara Rosenlund. She has such a magical way of styling object together – no one vignettes better than Kara!
As a historian, I’m a lover of stories with a soft spot for nostalgia. Although history may seem like an unlikely background for a retail entrepreneur, researching and teaching about the past enhanced my natural curiosity and honed my inclination to seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material objects.
What’s next for Showroom?
More sourcing beautiful product from cool local brands. More designing and manufacturing exclusive ranges for the shop. More workshops and events to support Brisbane’s incredible community of creative entrepreneurs. Expansion of the online store. And hopefully more time away from the shop for me so I can get back to more blogging and photography.
Catherine’s wise words for aspiring business owners:
Listen to your gut instinct, even if what it’s saying is inconvenient.
Be direct with your team. Giving negative feedback doesn’t feel good, but you have to communicate your expectations and preferences clearly to enable the people who work for you to do a great job. Failing to let them know when things haven’t been done the way you need them to be does everyone a disservice.
Get proper advice straight away. Get an accountant, a lawyer, set up a proper system for doing things.
Where: 104 Edward St, Brisbane QLD, 4000
Tuesday | 10 to 6
Wednesday | 10 to 6
Thursday | 10 to 6
Friday | 10 to 6
Saturday | 10 to 4
Sunday | CLOSED