• Perspective view of a Farren Price watch showroom, SLNSW.

L4, 109 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, 1948

After demolishing various dividing walls and partitions, Snelling created a 3,000-sq-ft tenancy for J. Farren Price Pty Ltd, an importer of Swiss watches on the fourth floor of the historic St James Building. Located opposite Hyde Park, the space had no window and received only minimal natural illumination from a light well.

Snelling’s fitout provided a reception area, showroom, office, repair workshop, and strongroom. These were decorated with glass panels, contrasting timbers of dark walnut, mid-toned maple and pale silver ash, and a paint palette of dove grey for ceilings, maroon for privacy curtains and other accents, and green for the upholstery of some chairs.

On entry, visitors were greeted by a screen of vertical boards of silver ash supporting a display of alarm clocks arrayed in a maroon-lined circular showcase backed by a triangular ‘flag’ of black cloth. Adding impact was a leather-strapped and buckled display watch, magnified twelve times from the standard size and telling accurate time, accompanied by the logo ‘Suisse’ beside Switzerland’s red cross. Seven watercolor prints of Swiss landscape scenes were imported to brighten the walls and communicate the origins of the business.

Because the St James Building was served by obsolete DC power—preventing use of fluorescent lighting—Snelling lit the reception room with incandescent spots. Building owners’s requirements also prevented Snelling from lowering the ceilings, ‘to improve the proportion’ of this interior.  To the right of the reception screen was a counter with horizontal boards of silver ash supporting a long, low glass display cabinet. Behind it was a wall of walnut plywood gridded into squares by strips of silver ash. Several lounge chairs were cantilevered from one wall.

In an annex off the reception area, the repair department was dramatized by a silver ash wall adorned with a photo mural promoting watch components and repairs. From the reception area, this display could be seen past a silk-screened curtain left half-open in the doorway between the two areas. Another part of the repair area included a floor-to-ceiling panel of plate glass with another curtain hung beside it to obscure the opening to the office. Centered between the reception-sales area and the repair room, the small office had a built-in maple desk of an free-form shape, to maximize floor space around it, and three built-in lounge chairs.

As well as the Sydney showroom, Snelling designed a Farren-Price jewellery store for Ipswich, Queensland. It is not known if this scheme was built.

Source

—Decoration and Glass. 1949. ‘Small showroom for watch retailer: designer Douglas B. Snelling Associates’, January–February, pp. 26–28.