Heritage Beauty


Old and new, classic and contemporary, tradition and innovation. This was the brief when Crabtree & Evelyn, iconic beauty and home care brand, (founded in America in the 1970s, and inspired by 17th century British botanist John Evelyn), invited Nexus Designs to create its prototype Australian store. Launched in the heritage listed Block Arcade in central Melbourne in 1988 this flagship store set the standard for all other Australian outlets at the time.

To reflect the richness of this brand – at once firmly established in heritage values, yet bravely modern in its product offering – our interior response was one of considered balance. Traditional tones of burgundy and timber in the shopfront; and the arcades intricate tiled floors and painted ceilings were complemented with original commissions by Melbourne artists. Tiled countertops by ceramicist Bern Emmerichs, a delicate stencilled frieze by Serge Couturier and a romantic ceiling mural by Sarah Curtis all gave the interior subtle links to its heritage environment and brand history, while the decorative illustrated packaging was championed in fresh white and neutral, custom designed joinery.

And we’ve still got the cast iron Crabtree doorstop in the studio today as a memento! It’s the BEST for holding open a very sturdy back door when tradies come in and out.

“Situated in the heart of Melbourne’s central business district – located off its famous Collins St – is Block Arcade. Over recent years, Block Arcade has been undergoing a gradual transformation, to restore the grand old structure back to former Victorian glory. Apart from the architectural elements of the arcade itself, the numerous shops are being remodelled – many with new tenants – bringing the entire building into context.

Although the concept is an admirable one, it has also placed some limitations on the designers and the shops themselves. And when a shop has its own concept and character, things can be even more difficult. 

Luckily, the Crabtree & Evelyn organisation has a traditional character already, making the task of designing its interior within a pre-determined architectural environment, a little less of a problem. In fact, the designers, Nexus, have utilised many of the elements of the Block Arcade’s architecture, modifying them and applying them to the interior of Crabtree & Evelyn’s shop with striking results. The character of the shop and that of the arcade have come together in complete harmony… but by clever and deliberate design rather than by accident.”

Excerpt from Blending Old With New – Interiors Magazine, Commercial Edition 1989

Photography: Earl Carter