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VM choice: Optica Toscana in Madrid

In a world where visual merchandising is often understood to be a store-fit or a temporary installation to attract attention and help sell merchandise, it may seem perverse to highlight a retailer that has left its space unchanged from the previous occupants.

But Optica Toscana, a small Spanish optician with a store in Barcelona and one in Hortaleza, Madrid, has done just that with the Madrid store.

To be clear, this isn’t like temporary retailers selling off-season or clearance items just before Christmas, or the ‘minimal, polished concrete floor/white painted walls/with a black chandelier’ look that we have become rather bored with, but something more akin to Paul Smith’s salvaging of a chemist’s interior for his Covent Garden store.

The fascia announces the former occupant, a seeds and grain retailer business founded in 1881.There is something very considered and rather knowing about the apparent nothingness of this store now retailing glasses.

The lower part of the fascia is totally Toscana, with a colourful circular theme and glasses displayed on shelf topped cubes. Bright colour, is of course, completely eye-catching, and the round shape nicely echoes the shape of the lenses.

Inside, against each wall is a multi-drawered wooden cabinet, many still with seed reference labels attached to the front. Sample glasses are displayed on shallow shelves above the counter and in new glass-topped display cases. Close-up, sepia-toned images of seeds at the very top allude to the store’s former existence.

Along the side-wall a larger cabinet, this time with a collection of glass-topped display cases and screw-topped jars on the shallow shelves, is set against an immaculately-painted white wall. The interior is not quite as untouched as it appears.

However, the concept chimes perfectly with notions of salvage, repurposing and the low-key avoidance of conspicuous consumption - which may be where the Spanish customer is right now, given the slightly fragile state of Spain’s economy.

The simple folded-card support for the glasses is fittingly low-key too…

This glass-topped wooden fixture was a classic for gloves and small lingerie items in the past. The shelves have been slightly cut down (the top shelf ones are original), and the front of the drawers have been removed to better display the merchandise. It looks great.

Store interiors repurposed in this way will always stand out and in an often staid sector like eye care that is doubly true.

Photographs: Darren Neave