Shoe Supply's Upcycled Design

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By Diana Budds / Published by Dwell
Belgian design firm Pinkeye recently created a retail space for Antwerp's Shoe Supply that upcycles an entire classroom. Situated on a quiet side street in the city's main retail district, the shop's off-the-beaten path locale tasked the designers with a hefty challenge: create an attention grabbing concept that would have mass appeal—and do it on the cheap. A local school was shuttered and instead of letting its contents lay to waste, the designers took desks, maps, lockers, chemistry flasks, and lamps to create this retro-inspired sneaker shop.

"The store not only speaks to teens who still spend most of their days in a classroom, but it also makes older generations reminisce while they look for the sneaker brands they have stayed true to since their high school days," says Ruud Belmans, Pinkeye's creative director. We asked Belmans a few questions via email about the store's concept. Read on to see what he has to say.

Shoe Supply's Upcycled Design - Photo 1 of 5 - Ruud Belmans, the creative director at Pinkeye.

Ruud Belmans, the creative director at Pinkeye.

What were the main creative challenges in the store's design?
Shoe Supply's Upcycled Design - Photo 2 of 5 -
To convince the owner of the concept. Originally, the briefing was to find furniture to match the black glitter flooring he had ordered. Seeing the store's hidden location, we decided it would be better to design a total concept that would be more mind-blowing than just a pretty shop, to really make the store the talk of the town.

Our classroom concept was completely the opposite direction of what the owner had in mind, and he was worried. Now he's very happy to sit behind his teacher's desk, seeing visitors look around and admire the space.
Shoe Supply's Upcycled Design - Photo 3 of 5 - Chemistry equipment becomes vehicle to display hats.

Chemistry equipment becomes vehicle to display hats.

How did you decide to repurpose classroom furniture?When examining the shop, the tiles on the stairs reminded us of the stairs in our old schools. Looking around, the space had the perfect dimensions to be destined as a classroom. This gave us a visual idea very quickly—use school desks, material from the chemistry lab, and a teacher's desk for the sales person. We then worked out in detail to really make the space come to life. We combined old with new materials but to keep it genuine, we rifled through many closing schools' furniture to find perfectly sized desks, complete with scribbled-on swear words and white-out tags.What aspects of the design are you most proud of?
Shoe Supply's Upcycled Design - Photo 4 of 5 - Lockers also serve as display cases for sneakers and apparel.

Lockers also serve as display cases for sneakers and apparel.

We attached small shelves to climbing frames, creating simple and flexible product walls without losing the school look.Anything else you'd like to add about the space as a whole?
Shoe Supply's Upcycled Design - Photo 5 of 5 - Desks line the center of the store and a shelf made from a climbing wall is in the background.

Desks line the center of the store and a shelf made from a climbing wall is in the background.

Even though a classroom is not your typical sneaker store look, it makes the space very recognizable and authentic. This puts shoppers at ease so they can comfortably shop for sneakers.

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