Runner-Up: Dahl's Foods, Ames, Iowa
Designer: AWG Design and Decor Source Group
In converting a traditional big-box format in Ames, Iowa, Dahl’s Foods aimed to transform the impersonal, imposing space of the former floor plan into cozy, functional atmosphere of a much smaller store.
To achieve a more inviting mood, the store’s departments were differentiated by earth-tone colors and a variety of wood-grain patterns. The ceiling is painted a darker shade than the walls to create the illusion of a lowered overhead plane, softening the industrial look of the former big-box space.
Additional design elements encourage a step-by-step shopping experience, aptly referred to as selling “stages.” Floating panels reduce the overhead plane to a more manageable scale while drawing the focus in each department to customers’ eye level. Glass pendant light fixtures accent the point of purchase – between the preparation and selling areas – in the deli, meat-cutting and bakery areas.
The produce section features a large mural offset by custom light fixtures to highlight the area’s size and the fresh items contained within, while the frozen food section features a large three-dimensional clock face and calendar pages floating midair to symbolize the amount of time customers save by filling their carts with frozen goods. To give the departments a unified theme, a “cooking adjective” that describes each section is written in black script across the wall above.
In an effort to avoid the expense of moving the bakery department, which was previously tucked away in the corner of the store and hidden from customers’ view, Dahl’s design team installed floating panels that radiate from a rounded soffit, expanding the visual real estate of the bakery section. The bakery now acts as the “hub” of Dahl’s Foods, as the rest of the store appears to orbit around it.
A key challenge/opportunity of the project was to locate a new space for the pharmacy, since other service departments already occupied the store’s perimeter. The finished product resulted in the new pharmacy being built in the store’s middle, providing renewed visibility and convenience to customers throughout their shopping experience.
For Dahl’s, what initially posed challenges for its new store became the framework for some of its most novel design features.