Melbourne’s favourite independent bookstore, Readings, has chosen Emporium Melbourne as the residence for their 8th store. The concept of the latest store was unlike others; taking on a less is more approach. The space reveals raw concrete finishes, exposed ceilings tidied in white and clean black frames for a polished industrial look. The natural light from the art deco windows brings a sense of beauty and calmness. And at the backend of the bookstore spots a captivating, playful mural painted by a Melbourne artist. We spoke to Sarah Cooper from Kerstin Thompson Architects and Kat Macleod, the artist behind the mural.
What is the concept & thinking behind the interior design?
Sarah: The Emporium Melbourne store is designed not only as a place to sell, but somewhere the community can come together to linger and learn. This new Readings space is as much about the secret spots to browse and read as it is to sell books.
Our goal was to house almost 500 linear metres of books – to achieve this we needed to play with density in the space. There’s a taller and more intimate library that you can get lost in. This then opens right up to a browsing area with seating that encourages customers to gravitate towards the natural light.
We played with transparency to make the back of the bookshelves as beautiful as the front. As customers pick or shuffle the books, they create windows into the aisles visible through the shopfront and from the shop floor.
The store has been designed as a series of independent furniture elements that live in this beautiful light filled shell - we like the idea that the shelving could evolve or adapt to create future stores in different spaces. The main bookshelf aisle is one large piece of furniture that hosts not only the books but the lighting and signage.
Readings features beautiful murals covering the large expanding walls. We asked artist and illustrator Kat Macleod about her inspiration behind these beautiful and fun designs.
Kat: I was asked to create a custom mural for the children’s area in the new Readings Emporium Melbourne store. As a children’s book illustrator, it was a dream project for me to paint on the walls of Melbourne’s favourite independent bookstore’s new Emporium location and add my touch to this beautifully designed interior.
My concept for the mural was to create a giant, rambling garden canopy, growing over the children’s bookshelves, and peeking out from the deep windows. Set at the back of the expansive store, the mural informally defines the kid's section, with a sense of wonder and fun. The giant botanical theme is inspired by my illustrations from my latest picture book, The Tiny Explorers, where my miniature characters navigate an enormous garden.
Similar to the adventure that plays out in my book, as you approach the children’s book area, surprising elements are revealed, such as big, bright bugs emerging from the shelving. On an even closer inspection, my tiny little people can be discovered, hidden amongst the huge foliage, immersed in their books.
I really enjoy playing with scale and translating my drawings up to the large proportions of the Readings walls, so that even grownups will feel a sense of child-like wonder when they find themselves beneath the giant blades of grass and flowers.
What was the intention of the store design integrated into a centre like Emporium Melbourne? How is Readings different to all the other bookstores?
Sarah: We hoped to craft a slower shopping experience for Emporium Melbourne customers. A quiet and intriguing shopfront leading to a light filled place to sit, read and discover. We would like to see this become Emporium’s living room.
The beautiful Emporium Melbourne heritage bones gave us an incredible backdrop to create a unique and light filled bookshop, often something missing in malls and bookstores. The store focuses on the large windows overlooking Little Bourke Street, allowing book lovers to take a moment and read in the natural light.
Why visit the Readings at Emporium Melbourne?
Sarah: Readings bookstore at Emporium Melbourne has a phenomenal range of books, and there’s now a space you can sit, read and learn right in the heart of the city. With almost 500 metres of bookshelves in this store, there’s something for everyone whether they are a book lover or new to reading.
Kerstin Thompson, Principal
Kerstin Thompson is Principal and Design Director of Kerstin Thompson Architects. Committed to design-based research and education, she is also Adjunct Professor at RMIT and Monash Universities. She plays an active role not only within the profession, but also in promoting quality design in the wider community. Kerstin has over 25 years of project experience. She is the design director and leader on all KTA projects, with the practice focus on architecture as a civic endeavour with an emphasis on user experience and enjoyment of place. Her design excellence, project success and strategic thinking has been recognised through a raft of architectural awards at state, national and international levels.
Sarah Cooper, Senior Interior Designer
Sarah joined KTA in 2020, she has experience working within multidisciplinary teams on retail, commercial, education and residential projects. Sarah takes a holistic approach when developing interior solutions, having experience as an architect, she has a strong technical background in design, detailing and construction. Sarah has experience on all project phases from concept design, design development, documentation, including branding, video content and prototyping.
Kat Macleod, Artist & designer
Kat Macleod is a Melbourne-based illustrator, graphic designer and exhibiting artist. Her instantly recognisable illustrations feature botanical forms, a balance of bold and delicate line work, bright colours and collaged textures. Over the past 2 decades Kat’s illustrations have appeared in numerous local and international fashion, art books and lifestyle magazines, and across a range of commercial and fine art projects including Heide Museum of Modern Art, Tiffany & Co., The Australian Ballet and Collette Dinnigan. Recently Kat has been fulfilling a lifelong dream to make children’s books, with an art-based educational series for toddlers and her first full picture book published in 2021 by Thames & Hudson Australia.