Offhand Practice designs second-hand bookshop to mimic greengrocer


Used books are displayed in supermarket-style crates at the Deja Vu Recycle Store in Shanghai, which local studio Offhand Practice has designed to counter the “shabby” image associated with second-hand shops.

The store, which also carries pre-owned fashion, is located on the first and second floor of a three-storey building on Shanghai’s buzzy Anfu Road.

Exterior of Deja Vu Recycle Store in Shanghai
The Deja Vu Recycle Store is located in Shanghai’s Anfu Road

On the interior, Chinese architecture studio Offhand Practice hoped to create a relaxed shopping environment despite the large number of goods on offer, which includes more than 2,000 pieces of clothing.

With this aim, the studio set out to mimic the experience of going to a greengrocer by displaying clothes and books on shelves typically used to hold fruits and vegetables, while giving all products equal prominence regardless of price.

Mosaic-tiled hallway in store interior by Offhand Practice
A long gallery-like corridor leads to the staircase for the first floor

“Picking up books in the way of picking up vegetables and fruits gives a feeling of enriching the spiritual basket,” Offhand Practice explained.

On the ground floor, the studio recessed the building’s entrance and framed it in cream-coloured mosaic tiles to create a small shelter while making the towering facade feel more welcoming.

Supermarket-style shelves holding books in Deja Vu Recycle Store
Second-hand books are displayed in supermarket-style crates

One of the main challenges for the studio was to encourage passersby to walk through the building’s ground floor – consisting of a long corridor bookended with space for mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) equipment– and climb the stairs to reach the Deja Vu Recycle Store.

This was achieved by turning the corridor into a kind of gallery, showcasing the process of refurbishing second-hand goods.

“Taking advantage of the narrowness, we identified spatial depth through layers of opening,” the studio explained.

Books are displayed on the building’s first floor and clothing on the second. Both levels have an open-plan layout with circulation routes defined by shelving and clothes rails.

Mosaic tiles made from stone off-cuts were used to form decorative wainscoting in the same creamy beige colour as the facade, which channels 1970s Shanghai interiors.

Contrasting green tiles were used to frame the generous window openings revealed during the building’s renovation, and to form integrated window seats.

Mosaic-framed window in Shanghai store by Offhand Practice
Green mosaic tiles were used to frame the building’s windows

Natural pine was used to form the cashier counter, shelves and book crates to add a sense of warmth to the interior.

Offhand Practice said it designed the store to break with negative preconceptions around second-hand stores being “dull, disorganised and piled with shabby objects”.

“Deja Vu Recycle Store breaks the stereotypical image of a second-hand store and erases the ritualistic impression of a traditional bookstore full of full-height bookshelves,” the studio said.

Green mosaic tiles covering arch in Deja Vu Recycle Store in Shanghai
The tiles were also used to emphasise arches and other architectural details

The store was recently been shortlisted for large retail interior of the year at the 2022 Dezeen Awards.

Other projects in the running include a surrealist pop-up shop designed by Random Studio for fashion brand Jacquemus and a concept store that Schemata Architects has created for an outdoor brand in South Korea.

The photography is by Hu Yanyun.



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