Skunk & Relax coffeeshop by Maurice Mentjens, Sittard – The Netherlands

November 14th, 2014 by retail design blog

Even the unique coffeeshops of the Netherlands are moving with the times. For the new premises shared by Skunk and Relax in Sittard, award-winning interior designer Maurice Mentjens has created two different identities. Skunk is urbane and down to earth, Relax a green oasis to lounge in. The busy areas are lined with hallucinating, green-striped reflective walls, more than subtly hinting at larger-than-life cannabis plants.

Behind a simple shopfront with a fixed canopy in Limburg oak, Skunk and Relax showcase the contemporary look and feel developed for them by Mentjens, who previously produced several acclaimed designs for “smart shops”. The two new outlets represent two different worlds: efficient and straightforward for the quick-turnaround takeaway side, a Garden of Eden for more leisurely relaxation. In creating the overall retail experience, Mentjens was inspired by the cannabis plant itself. Cleverly positioned transparent and mirrored panels give the impression that you are wandering around in a “field of grass”. “An hallucinating trip, even without a joint,” jokes owner Peter Hendriks, who commissioned the new premises.

Experiential space: To comply with the stringent rules and regulations, Hendriks wanted two entirely separate coffeeshops in one building. Each had to have its own entrance and exit, although an internal connection was allowed. Combined with a rather inconvenient triangular site, these requirements produced an unusual floor plan. “Takeaway” outlet Skunk dominates the view from the street, with passageways on either side leading to Relax, which is tucked away at the rear of the building. Those two access routes take up a substantial amount of space, cutting the overall retail floor area despite the two outlets sharing facilities like toilets, a service area and a security booth.

“We have turned that drawback into an advantage by transforming the passageways into spectacular experiential spaces,” says Mentjens. The secret lies in the panels lining them, which are mirrored along the outside wall and transparent on the inward-facing side. The resulting effect makes walk-in coffeeshop Skunk appear many times bigger than it really is. Moreover, all of the panels are decorated with semi-transparent strips in various shades of green. A reference to the botanical substances on sale. “It’s as if you are surrounded by a fairytale glade of abstract cannabis stalks,” is how Mentjens explains the experience.

Visual effects: The illusion is carried through to its ultimate extreme in the long corridor leading out from Relax. As well as all the walls, the ceiling is also mirrored – making the confined space appear twice its true height. Thanks to plain reflective panels at the far end, the visitor sees only an unending path running through an almost infinite field. A disconcerting visual effect that Mentjens has used in previous interior design. “The hallucination here is that, like Alice in Wonderland, you are actually walking through a field of ‘grass’ with rows of plants on either side.

For the mirrored panels, an extra-clear glass has been chosen. This is less green than normal mirrors, so that the recurring image retains its colour contrast longer. However, the security booth is glazed with one-way Spyglass from Saint-Gobain. This allows discrete observation of the well-lit passageway without disrupting the overall impression that all the walls are mirrored.

Moonlit garden of delights: Inside, the two coffeeshops retain their established house styles. Skunk’s sales counter is bright orange, under a ceiling studded with noise-absorbing grey cylinder baffles in a grid pattern. Robust oak tables and chairs by Alexander Pelikan bring a modern rustic touch to the space. We find the same furniture in Relax, but here arranged to create a romantic garden of delights enclosed by ivy-covered walls. Large circular skylights, 120 centimetres in diameters, ensure that there is plenty of daylight. And at night they are illuminated from outside by spotlights. Combined with the wall lamps, also circular, the impression is that you are surrounded by a host of full moons. Like the groves in the passageways, a spiritual experience in its own right – even without the help of mind-expanding substances.

Photography: Peter Kessels
Design by by Maurice Mentjens

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