Situated only a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of Shanghai, the coastal city of Ningbo boasts a similar historic downtown dotted with European-style buildings, mostly by British and Dutch architects. It’s here, in the The Old Bund district which sits at the confluence of the Yuyao and Yong rivers, where a striking hybrid retail concept has opened its doors a little while ago. Called Nordic Books, the name is whimsically deceptive as it’s not only dedicated to showcasing books, but also Nordic design, and lifestyle items. Occupying no less than 572 sqm. (6,157 sq.ft.) across four floors of a historic, former bank building, the venue features an interior design by Helsinki-based design practice Yatofu Creatives. The ground floor instantly dispels any preconceptions of first-time visitors as it’s home to Feitian, a full-fledged dessert bar that’s indicative of a huge trend in China‘s fast-evolving hospitality scene right now. Here, the setting features a contrasting material palette of muted lime green micro-cement against the more modern and dramatic blackened steel.
The bar itself is hooded by a band of suspended lush greens, emphasising the blurring of boundaries created by the indoor-outdoor window seats. Towards the back of the space, a sculptural staircase sweeps through building. One floor up, a gallery space and showroom unfolds with coloured micro-cement walls and dark oak parquet flooring. The space is punctuated by the organic textures in the exposed brick wall and natural granite display volumes. The third floor is home to a retail space furnished with a range of sculptural display structures. Beside the main retail area, an open space, visitors find two sections dedicated to individual collections, and each featuring a different aesthetic. One section is clad in dark charcoal with blackened steel shelves, while the other emerges at the very centre of the room as an enclosed rotunda with a contrasting interior. Tying in with the modern lifestyle of today’s young urbanite, the top floor of Nordic Books is designated as a co-working and event space, featuring timber flooring, walls in a soft green hue and large arched windows that allow in floods of natural light.