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The Imperial Durbar Novella 
View the Lookbook      Completed Project

The narrative approach to design runs through the interiors, graphics and special features. Occasionally, a 'novella' is created for a client. The key to this is a strong concept, or story line, which grounds the entire project. When a client wishes to recall a specific time and/ or place for their venture, this method is especially useful. In addition to providing historically relevant information, the story line also adds depth through the details that help replicate the fictionalized space. 


While creating the characters, central theme, and setting the concept is flushed out to make it connected and robust.  The lookbook commissioned for The Imperial Durbar illustrates how this process works. This methodology creates a fiction that drives reality -- a stage where patrons become unknowing participants.

Nick and Alistair Heathecote obtained a site in Tooting Bec, London for their new cafe & bar venture. The neighborhood combines an existing large East Asian population with an influx of young singles priced out of areas such as Shoreditch or Hoxton. The premise behind the bar was to create an aesthetic reminiscent of Imperial India. 


The process of examination included both primary and secondary research, nearly establishing a form of "method' designing by immersing oneself as completely as possible in the specified time and place. The novella created included not only a storyline but also how this fiction would be reflected in the interiors, graphics, naming, offerings and special features of the bar. This guide served as a reference to establish an eclectic yet cohesive space. 



The premise for the Imperial Durbar, originally called “The Empress", was a young adult’s return to his grandfather's dry goods store and shipping center. As both late 19th century British and Indian cultures were involved, the societies were studied individually as well as the combined culture they created.


After a brief written description, various image boards featured a collection of photographs, drawings and modern recreations of the time period. The concept board, which followed, melded these influences together. As this narrative involves the grandson returning to the century old enterprise his great-grandfather had established, further text and concept boards communicated the state of the contemporary site.  


In the second section, an inspiration image and description serves as a guide for each room while modern and vintage sources on the following page show how the idea will be implemented. Finally, the last section extends the concept into the ventures offerings, special features, website and other areas.

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