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Manhattan Interiors Has A Brand New City Branch

Manhattan Interiors, suppliers of top quality furniture and bed linen in Borrowdale Village (See Structure and Design volume 12.) have recently opened a new branch on the corner of Nelson Mandela Avenue and Angwa Street in Harare city centre. The Mandela branch occupies what was originally the old Radio Ltd Building which was designed by the architectural group Hoston, Barnes + Clinton & Evans. It was Mike Clinton’s first major commission. He later went on to design most of the high-rise buildings in the City centre over the next four decades, including the Karigamombe Centre and the Reserve Bank building.) It was the only major development in the City in 1965. The building has since passed through several hands but it has always remained a furniture store. The design of the building is ideally suited to a large retail store with existing access for deliveries, goods lifts and extensive street frontage for display. Manhattan Interiors has preserved or restored most of the original architectural features. The internal pillars, which divide the ground floor showroom into separate bays, have been retained. There’s a beautiful and elegant staircase which leads up to the first floor gallery. The staircase handrails and the bannisters on the gallery are still original although the stair treads and risers have been newly tiled. They’ve been clad in ceramic tiles which look like gently aged timber in a variety of different, soft hues.

The wood-look tiles have been used to create a narrow open passageway which starts at the front of the shop, where the admin and sales desks are set up, past the old (still working) passenger lift and then up the stairs. The old floor has been replaced by large concrete tiles in keeping with the Industrial look – which are ideally suited to show off the furniture displays. The window section along Angwa Street has raised wooden platforms divided into bedroom sets, furnished and accessorised to let customers imagine how the furniture would work in their own homes. The showroom is designed to be a ‘retail experience’ – apart from being a feast for the eyes and stimulation for the imagination, there’s background music playing throughout and there’s even a scented vaporiser to keep the atmosphere fresh. The new Chop Chop coffee shop is integrated into Manhattan for shoppers to refresh themselves before, during or after browsing around the showroom. The first floor gallery creates a vast double volume space above the ground floor which is hung with huge, modern chandeliers and light fittings that emphasise the warehouse feel. Tracy Wilson, who designed the shop, has chosen an industrial chic, New York loft look, which compliments the furniture and also shows off the architecture well. Most of the ceilings throughout the shop have been removed to reveal the concrete slabs, beams, and the air conditioning and electrical ducts. In places there’s unplastered exposed brickwork and old weathered corrugated iron sheets (reclaimed from their factory) have been used as interesting wall cladding. Some old pressed ceiling panels form a decorative frieze above the passenger lift. COMMERCIAL PROFILE 19 On the first floor gallery shoppers will discover yet more vignettes of furniture displays as well as an extensive section – almost one full wall of shelving – devoted to linens and soft furnishings. This section also encompasses their extensive range of high quality bedding and mattresses – a fairly new range that they’re expanding into.

On this level and above there are no west facing windows although the generous proportions of the open double volume space keep the area feeling light and airy. It’s an architectural design feature to help control the harsh afternoon sunlight. The floor above is currently used as a workshop cum storeroom for in[1]house soft furnishings so it’s not readily accessible to shoppers. There’s a huge custom made cutting desk and a vast selection of carefully selected, top quality upholstery fabrics. (The cutting desk was made by George Chavi from Ross Kitchens who also supplied a lot of the other carpentry and shopfitting.) The third floor also has some beautiful original architectural features.

There’s a huge roof lantern or skylight that floods the working space with natural light and there’s even an outside rooftop deck. The vision for the interior design and layout of the shop was supplied by Tracy and Jim Wilson while most of the construction and fitting was done in-house by artisans and tradesmen from J. W. Wilson. Manhattan Interiors is the retail section of furniture designers and manufactures J. W. Wilson. Jim and Alan Wilson are the current managers of the furniture manufacturing company which was founded by their father around 60 years ago. So, if you’re looking for a stylish and elegant range of top quality, locally manufactured furniture, linens, soft furnishings, bedding and home accessories drop in to the new Mandela Street branch. They’re open Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm and on Saturdays from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm. You’re sure to be inspired.

text by Michael Nott photography by Michele Fortmann

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