A box of chocolates can inspire love, indecision (nougat, cherry liquor or almonds?) and famous film quotes. But architecture? Japanese design firm Nendo recently unveiled the interior for Belgian “haute cuisine” chocolate brand BbyB’s first overseas retail location. Inspired by BbyB’s modular packaging design, the Tokyo location has an understated but elegant sensibility that is a hallmark of Nendo’s work.
At chef Bart Desmidt’s Michelin-starred restaurant Bartholomeus, the most popular dessert was a simple praline (a Belgian chocolate with a soft or liquid filling) inspired by a babelutte, an everyday Flemish caramel. In 2010, Desmidt and master chocolatier Jan Verleye translated the dessert into a business. BbyB chocolates come packaged five bars per box; five boxes can then be packaged into a beautiful cube.
Choosing from over 20 unique flavor combinations including rhubarb/violet, star anise/honey, passion fruit/basil, the designers at Nendo took note of how “the contents become apparent only gradually, as the boxes are opened and closed…turning the cube into a magic chest of drawers.” This element of delight has become the central design element in the new BbyB Ginza location. The Tokyo shop is the chocolate packaging at an architectural scale.
A transparent chest of drawers runs through the length of the space, offering the range of chocolates in a colorful suspended display. Customers can identify flavors by number or color and slide open the drawers themselves to remove an individual box of chocolates, mimicking the action in the packaging. The white wall that serves as a background to the custom display case is tiled with the chocolate packages to give the effect of a secondary layer of drawers.
Progressing through the store, the display cabinet transitions into a counter for the rear cafe. The cafe space is delineated by a black interior and creates a consistency across varying elements of the space—retail merchandising, packaging experience, and the act of eating the chocolate.
BbyB is now open at 3-4-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo