Recreational marijuana will be legal in California as of Jan. 1, 2018, and the proliferation of dispensaries and proposed retail pot shops (one has even been approved for the tony El Paseo shopping district in Palm Desert) means that business owners are getting more competitive with architecture and design to attract clientele.
Desert’s Finest Medical Marijuana recently opened in Desert Hot Springs and the look of the shop is definitely more high-end than hippie chic. The boutique-style interior was designed by Samuel Fleming Lewis and Stephen Kladder, owners of the design studio and gallery Lewis & Kladder located in the Antique Galleries of Palm Springs building in the Sunny Dunes Antique District.
“Although we had never designed a dispensary we were excited by the challenge,” says Lewis. “In the past, we have designed interesting small business spaces including a small production space for independent filmmakers, a community gallery, and a resale shop for gold and fine jewelry. Stephen and I both come from a background of designing large business spaces, [but] we like small business design projects because we can develop a unique point of view within a space.”
For Desert’s Finest, rather than honing in on the notion that the business is a marijuana dispensary, the designers wanted to create something that was new, fresh, and site specific. “The reception became a lounge,” says Lewis, “[and] the design of the sales room was as important as the product display making it similar to any retail space where one would purchase a high-end specialty product.”
Eames-style chairs and Saarinen-style tables give the lounge a midcentury vibe.
“We always use or create interior architecture as the foundation and inspiration of our work,” he adds. “The combination of 10-foot-tall ceilings, exposed concrete beams and columns, along with the clerestory-style windows, were used as design features. The space had the right combination of existing elements to transform it into an urban/contemporary, loftlike space.” The designers were also inspired by the coffeehouses of 1980s Amsterdam, where small, bright art-filled spaces also provided an area to consume cannabis or hash.
The desert itself became a contextual feature for colors and materials. “The wood walls mimic the various colors of desert sand and mountains while adding natural texture to the space,” says Lewis. The desert also inspired the four paint colors they selected. The walls are a pale blue-gray that Lewis says can be seen in the desert sky at certain times of day, while the citron-yellow accent color references the sun. A medium blue was used on the beam and column in the sales area because the designers like to use blue tones in the desert as a visual relief from the heat. The ceiling was painted a blue-black to avoid glare from the windows.
“The design of the sales room was as important as the product display, making it similar to any retail space where one would purchase a high-end specialty product,” says Samuel Fleming Lewis of local design studio and gallery Lewis & Kladder.
“The reception booth received blue-black with pale blue-gray stripes to serve as both a design feature and as a way of finding it because your eye is drawn to the large contrasting stripes,” says Lewis. A galvanized sheet metal wall provides an industrial look as well as light reflection. And two oddly placed floor-to-ceiling metal pipes played to the designers’ advantage when they transformed them into a midcentury-style design feature by covering them in shimmering gold and sand-colored glass mosaic tiles. The gray wood-grain porcelain floor tile installed in a grid pattern is another nod to midcentury design.
“The pendant ball string light fixtures were [also] used as a reference to midcentury style,” says Lewis. “What we like best about the project is that we were able to use the existing quirky architectural details of the spaces to create visual interest and balance. The texture and color of the wood walls, the bold-striped, painted details, and the reflective galvanized sheet-metal walls are our favorite elements.”
The wood walls play off midcentury-style features like the pendant-ball string-light fixtures and a porcelain tile floor laid in a grid pattern.