Keeping Up Appearances: Shopfront Design

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THE LIBERTIES DUBLIN Keeping Up Appearances

INTRODUCTION The renewal and improvement of shopfronts is a critical factor to improve the appearance and quality of the commercial environment of The Liberties. Making the best of a shop frontage is something that most businesses can achieve at very modest cost. In addition, extending improvements to upper floors will also help enhance the street, attract new businesses to invest and entice more customers to the area. Where these improvements can be encouraged along entire streets then the effect is transformative. The Liberties Business Area Improvement Initiative is working to support businesses and other stakeholders on the main commercial streets to address common issues and to inspire a rejuvenation of the area.

THE VALUE OF A GOOD SHOPFRONT Shopfronts are crucial to determining how people view and enjoy commercial streets throughout The Liberties - put simply: good shopfronts attract shoppers. There are many examples of good shopfronts in the area, but also many instances of shopfronts failing to take advantage of the attractive features or proportions that they have inherited. Traditionally, timber was used as a shopfront facing material in The Liberties and a number of good examples still survive such as the Pharmacy at No. 55 Thomas Street. Across the street, the striking Art Nouveau-style shopfront at No. 116 elegantly incorporates a carriage arch and upper floor entrances and is an example of some of the grander frontages that once populated much of The Liberties. However, in many instances the quality of a shopfront is lost due to poor quality alterations, or overlystrident colours, poorer-grade materials, or extraneous features such as wiring, floodlighting, excessive signs, etc. Decorative features survive on many of the premises throughout the area, although many are hidden by cladding and fascia boards. However, these features all add to the attractiveness of the street, and where revealed and highlighted, would contribute to the positive impression visitors get when they visit The Liberties. Care and thought should be given to the design of your shopfront—after all its the showcase for your business!

SHOPFRONT PLANNING PERMISSION Planning permission from Dublin City Council is usually required before you undertake any development work in the city. The Council seeks to promote quality in the design of new shopfronts and the City Development Plan, which guides development in the city, makes specific requirements in this area. You will be required through a condition of your planning permission to avoid cluttering your shopfront with excessive projecting signs, blocking up windows with posters and stickers and adding features such as loud speakers to the front of your buildings. All property owners within the Thomas Street & Environs Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) must apply for planning permission for any changes to the exterior of a building that materially alters its character. This includes replacing windows and doors and shopfronts. In addition, if your property is a protected structure, there is a further onus on you to seek agreement from the Planning Authority before you undertake any works to your property. The broad thrust of the Thomas Street & Environs ACA policy is that historic features and decorative elements that add to the interest and attractiveness of Thomas Street should be preserved and that modern elements should complement and enhance these features. It doesn't preclude modern and contemporary elements. More information at

DEVELOPMENT PLAN Dublin City Council promotes a dual approach to shopfront design: • Protecting traditional and original shopfronts • Encouraging good contemporary design Policy RD7 “To require a high quality of design and finish for new and replacement shopfronts, signage and advertising. Dublin City Council will actively promote and seek the principles of good shopfront design as set out in Dublin City Council’s Shopfront Design Guidelines”. In all instances, the City Council encourages planning applicants, architects and designers to consult Dublin City Council’s Shopfront Design Guide when preparing proposals for new shopfronts. The design of the shopfront should include the street number of the premises. Learn More at

Image above taken from: Shopfront Design Guide, Hackney Borough Council, London

BASIC SHOPFRONT PRINCIPLES 1. Scale & Proportions: Shopfronts that respect the scale and proportions of their building are often the most effective. Large fascia displays that stretch across the full building should be avoided. The depth of fascia should be proportional to the building and should avoid covering first floor windows. 2. Materials: On older buildings, traditional materials such as timber and stone work best and are most appropriate and often prove the most durable and easy to maintain. A simple, limited palette of materials is most effective. The use of highly reflective or glossy materials such as plastic should be avoided. 3. Architectural Features and Details: Small features and detailing are often what people notice and enjoy. Make the most of the features on a traditional shopfront and repair and replace where you can. 4. Security: Security is an obvious concern for businesses but the heavily shuttered frontages on Thomas Street currently present a forbidding first impression and offer opportunities to taggers and graffiti artists. Where shutters are desired, open-mesh grilles, removable shutters or internally-mounted mesh grills are preferable as they allow window displays to be seen out of hours. Rollers look best where they are concealed within the fascia. Painted shutters look better than bare steel grills. 5. Colour: Careful choice of colour is extremely important. Avoid strong lurid colours across the entire shopfront; while these colours may highlight your premises, the cumulative effect on the street is offputting. which can often diminish the original goal which is to attract. Work with the other materials of the building: for example brick buildings respond better to muted tones while stronger primary colours work better with stone-fronted buildings. A smart shopfront will look its best if windows and upper floor features are also well maintained and painted.

RESOURCES TO HELP YOU There are a number of resources available to property and business owners in the local area to assist with getting the right look for your premises. Firstly there are already many good examples of well-presented shopfronts in The Liberties. Many of these examples demonstrate the value of a modern quality appearance while being respectful to the surrounding historic streetscape. The Liberties benefits from a number of businesses that are skilled at advising on colour and finishes, including MRCB Paints and Farrow & Ball on Cornmarket. For the owners of protected structures or historic premises, information on reputable joiners, shopfront fitters, signwriters, and sash window specialists can be found at Dublin Civic Trust or the Irish Georgian Society There are a range of architecture and design firms working in the area whom you can engage to advise you on the best approach to take with your business frontage. National College of Art & Design could be great source of creative ideas and inspiration to help make your business stand out and be distinctive on the street, while also establishing The Liberties as a centre for good design in the city. Taking advantage of the resources in your area and supporting other local businesses benefits everyone.

6. Signage and Lettering: Shop signs are important as they attract custom and identify the retailer. However, excessive signage can clutter a building and the cumulative effect on a street can be detrimental. Keep shop signs simple and smart. Individually mounted or painted lettering in attractive scripts should be used on fascia signs. Projecting signs should be restricted to fascia level and ’less is more’ should be the maxim here. A shop should advertise its brand rather than that of another company. And please include the building number. 7. Wires, Alarm Boxes and Utilities: Wiring and utilities often accumulate over time on premises and a simple exercise in cleaning away redundant fixtures would greatly improve the appearance of buildings. Newly installed cabling or utilities should be incorporated as much as possible into the fabric of the shopfront. The ACA policy restricts items such as satellite dishes on the street frontages of buildings. 8. Incorporate Some Planting: Businesses can ‘green’ their shopfronts with small additions such as shrubs in planters or window boxes. There are lots of small efforts each can make to create a more attractive street—to everyone's benefit .... a couple of pots by the door, a bench, or some window boxes at first floor level. 9. And Finally... What’s in the window: A shop window is there to attract and entice people. Very few businesses can attract customers with blanked- out windows or shuttered frontages. Don’t cover your windows completely and consider the value of ‘merchandising’ some of your goods - Fay’s Butchers and Enable Ireland are great examples of this on Thomas Street, while Francis Street also offers excellent examples.

CONTACTS DCC Planning Department 01 222 2149 Dublin Civic Trust 1 874 9681

The Liberties Business Area Improvement Initiative is a partnership between Dublin City Council and local businesses and stakeholders that is working to transform the commercial heart of Dublin 8 through public and private sector investment, to create a more a more vibrant and attractive city neighbourhood. More about the Initiative at

Farrow & Ball 01 677 0111 MRCB Paints 01 679 8755 National College of Art and Design 01 636 4200 Liberties Business Forum 01 222 5180 @ LibertiesDublin The Liberties Dublin