• Sinuous bulkheads and screens defined the frock salon.

Pitt and Liverpool Streets, Sydney, 1947–48

Snelling remodelled two floor areas of the Sydney Snow department store to provide a selling space for women’s clothes, an adjacent ‘model frock salon’ for private showings and a department manager’s office, then adding a ‘kiddies shoes’ department.

At the entrance to the women’s areas, Snelling installed a raised display platform with a narrow, freeform outline. Behind this, as a backdrop to several fashion mannequins, he built an Alvar Aalto-inspired undulating screen of clear-lacquered coachwood battens, fixed only at the endpoints so the undulations could be revised to suit each change of the mannequin display.

Above this showcase, large recessed downlights were fitted into a dark-painted bulkhead with a freeform outline, floating below the existing traditional ceiling. Around the room, a series of illuminated, rectangular display cases were embellished with freeform frames of silver ash, contrasting the maple partitions behind. In the fitting rooms, Snelling line stools with bright-colored webbings were provided.

Above and behind the mannequin display screen, Snelling built an Aalto-inspired, organically shaped, vertically ribbed ceiling bulkhead to define the elliptical boundaries of the model frock salon. The entrance to this central ‘feature’ space was marked on both sides by sequences of circular poles fixed between the floor and the base of the bulkhead; these narrowed the entry to enhance a sense of intimate enclosure within the area. Leading into the space was a sinuous series of downlights recessed into the base of the bulkhead. The interior incorporated several raised display floors and several Snelling armless, webbed lounge chairs.

In another part of the
same floor, the department manager’s office was concealed behind a maple screen
embellished with a projecting sequence of tapered fins in silver ash,
incorporating a long, horizontal, internally lit display case. The back of the
case was reeded glass to allow the manager to watch the floor without being
noticed by customers and to allow the lights inside the case to illuminate the
manager’s desk area. This office measured 5 ft 6 in by 12 ft and included a
small curved desk (glass-topped timber) attached to a wall and supported on one
leg to apparently enlarge the floor space. Three recessed shelves were provided
in an adjacent wall. A Snelling webbed stool of silver ash was provided.

Several months later, Snelling added the kiddies shoes salon. At the entrance to this area, an existing square column was concealed by a circular sleeve (regularly repainted with colorful graphics), and the column’s Classical capital was replaced by a model of Humpty Dumpty. At low heights, visible to children, the column was surrounded by two-tiers of amoeba-shaped tabletops, displaying child mannequins and shoes. On the other side of the entrance, a series of timber fins supported a trio of internally lit display cases and backgrounded a row of Snelling webbed dining chairs provided for customers.

At the rear of this shoe sales area, children were encouraged to climb a short flight of stairs to a raised fitting area equipped with a banquette. This arrangement relieved staff and parents from any need to bend down for fittings and allowed cupboards for stock storage below the raised floor. Cascading down the left wall of the salon, a miniature staircase allowed further displays of shoes. In the freeform bulkhead above the area, semi-recessed downlights and metal spotlights were fitted. The back wall was coated with a crazy pattern of comics from the Sunday newspapers.

Sources

—Building and Engineering. 1948. ‘Modern display: the work of Douglas B. Snelling & Associates: the ‘new look’ in display’, 24 July, pp. 26–27.

—Decoration and Glass. 1947. ‘Department store displayed’, November–December, pp. 22–23.

—Decoration and Glass. 1948. ‘Kiddies’ shoe department: designed Douglas B. Snelling Associates’, July–August, pp. 10–13, 57.

—Snelling, Douglas B. 1947. ‘The retail store … a problem of design’, Rydges, February, pp. 106–09.

—Trevillion, James. 1995. The Adventures of Douglas B. Snelling (dissertation), Sydney: University of Technology, Sydney.