ADVERTISEMENTS AND SHOP FRONT DESIGN: ADDITIONAL ADVICE TO APPLICANTS
The aim of this advice is to promote and encourage good shopfront design. Whilst the design principles have been written in the main for Conservation Areas and listed buildings, regard should be had to the principles throughout the Borough.
The main purpose of the shopfront was to display the goods for sale but has increasingly become a means by which a view of the interior of the shop can be achieved. However, in either case, the shopfront projects an image of the shop. A poorly designed shopfront will project a poor image and vice versa. Some modern shopfronts have been criticised because of their use of inappropriate or garishly coloured materials; overly large fascias which have lead to the loss or concealment of original detailing; and ignorance of the basic rules of scale and proportion.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century shopfront designs were based on principles that were noticeably successful in achieving satisfactory relationships between the shopfronts and the buildings. These principles still hold good. This guidance is intended to give an outline of the principles of good shopfront design. However, it is not meant to be prescriptive or exhaustive.
- Shopfronts should be of a size, design, scale and materials to satisfactorily relate to the building in which the shopfront is to be installed and to adjacent premises.
- The shopfront should satisfactorily relate to the upper floors of the building in structural concept, proportion, scale and vertical alignment. However, within Conservation Areas, on poorly designed buildings, the emphasis should be on achieving a shopfront that enhances its Conservation Area setting.
- Corporate house styles may need to be modified to suit the location and character of the premises on which they are installed.
- Large areas of unrelieved glass should be avoided. This can be achieved by introducing vertical mullions and glazing bars, pilasters and stallrisers. (see Fig. 3.1)
The stallriser was a vital part of the historic shopfront, providing protection to the lower part of the shop window and visual stability to the building. The stallriser will vary in height according to the style adopted. A stallriser is also an advantage from the point of view of security in physically strengthening the shopfront.
- A stallriser will normally be required.
- Suitable finish materials for a stallriser are painted panelled timber, render and, in some cases, brick.
- A timber stallriser should sit on a stone or brick plinth to prevent rotting of the timber.
- Entrance doors should be part glazed with a lower timber panel to reflect the height of the stallriser.
Most shopfronts incorporate a fascia to denote the name and/or type of shop. Additional advertising is generally confusing and serves only to detract from the shopfront. The design of the fascia should be appropriate to the character and period of the building, and in particular, to the shopfront.
- Excessively deep fascias should be avoided. The size and design should be in proportion to the design of the shopfront and the height of the building. A fascia usually requires a visual “cap” in the form of a projecting cornice. Most traditional fascias do not exceed 380 mm in depth. As a guide, the fascia and cornice element of the shopfront should be less than one quarter of the height of the whole shopfront (see Fig.3.1)
- The construction of fascias of a common depth, which link two or more buildings that have separate architectural identities, should be avoided even if internally they are all part of one shop.
- The fascia should not be applied over an existing one and must not obstruct other significant elements of the building. The top of the fascia or the cornice should be clear of any first floor window cills.
- In Conservation Areas and on listed buildings the fascia should be made of hand painted softwood timber.
The selection of materials for a shopfront should always take account of the style and design of the proposed front, the building in which it is to be fitted and its setting. Generally, too many different materials should be avoided.
- Facing materials in Conservation Areas should be matt and non-reflective. Glossy surfaces such as acrylic sheeting and perspex, aluminium or plastic will not normally be acceptable.
- In the case of Listed Buildings, rustic stonework, ceramics, marble, plastic, anodised or plastic coated metals will not normally be acceptable
- Timber was the standard shop front material of historical shop fronts and is the most appropriate material for all situations, but particularly in Conservation Areas and on Listed Buildings. Painted timber will be generally preferred to stained hardwood. Non-sustainable hardwoods are strongly discouraged as not only environmentally unsound but alien to the historic street.
The use of appropriate lettering can provide decorative interest and add to the character of the shopfront. Considerable artistic effect can be achieved by using a competent signwriter.
- Whilst the choice of lettering can reflect the use and character of both the shop and the building, in general, serif letters will be preferred.
- Individual letters can be useful especially where there is no fascia but should neither be too widely spaced or too close together. Where used with a fascia they should be well proportioned to the length and depth of the fascia.
- The actual size of lettering should be determined by the need to be legible, but not unduly intrusive in relation to the building facade, and be integrated with other elements in the street scene.
- Colours are important; gilding or strong tones on a dark background reflect light and are clearly visible at night.
It is generally preferable to illuminate the window display rather than the shop front itself. Shop signs do not need special illumination if the level of street lighting and light from shop windows is adequate. The highlighting of significant buildings and pedestrian spaces is the key to a lively and safe night-time environment.
- Internally illuminated fascias will not be permitted in Conservation Areas (apart for the exceptions in Brentwood High Street referred to in Policy TC14) and on listed buildings. Elsewhere internal illumination should be restricted to letters only.
- Normally, where lighting is appropriate, it should take the form of discreetly hidden external illumination e.g. concealed behind a “false” cornice. The use of lanterns or fittings that are obtrusive on the face of the building should be avoided.
- External illumination of signs of a spot light type should not be located in any position where they are likely to cause a traffic hazard.
- It will not generally be appropriate to illuminate hanging signs unless they belong to public houses, restaurants or similar late-opening premises.
7. Projecting Signs
There is a long tradition of hanging signs dating back through guild signs to Roman times. They are an apt way of conveying information to the pedestrian, particularly in an enclosed situation such as an arcade. Where a fascia is undesirable, a hanging sign might be a useful alternative.
- Within Conservation Areas hanging signs are the most appropriate form of projecting sign and should take the form of a free-swinging board hanging from a wrought iron bracket.
- Hanging signs should, in all cases, be of a high quality of design and should relate to the size and scale of the building and not be overly intrusive.
- There should normally be no more than one hanging sign per building and it should usually be located above and clear of the fascia and cornice and in any event at such a height and overall projection that would not be liable to cause hazard to either vehicular or pedestrian traffic. Positioning of the sign on or near to party walls will usually be preferable to central positions
- Where expressed consent is required, projecting box signs will not normally be permitted in Conservation Areas or on listed buildings whether internally illuminated or not. In other areas, projecting box signs, where permitted, should be located no higher than the top of the fascia or cornice.
8. Canopies and Blinds
Canopies and blinds have a practical purpose in that they provide shelter and protect the shop display from damage due to direct sunshine. They should not be introduced as a form of advertising space.
- The use of plastic, wet-look or stretch fabrics, garish or fluorescent colours for blinds will not normally be permitted.
- Dutch blinds or “balloon” canopies are inappropriate since their open form and the shape of the housing are unlikely to relate well to the shop front and they tend to obstruct the fascia.
- Blinds should not normally be required on north facing elevations or in narrow streets. Where fitted they should be retractable so that the fascia is not permanently obscured.
- Careful thought needs to be given as to how the blind box can be integrated within the overall shop front design. Incorporation within a fascia cornice was a traditional solution.
9. Residential Conversions
Early shops were incorporated into the ground floor of residential town houses. Where conversion of the ground floor of an existing residential property is proposed the design of the shopfront should be sympathetic to the original residential use.
- Shop fronts should be of a scale and design to compliment such residential buildings and retain the original features wherever possible, e.g. pilasters, transom lights.
- The installation of additional or enlarged windows or other major alterations will not normally be acceptable.
- The use of external cladding or render should be avoided on buildings constructed in faced brickwork.
Shops, like all other buildings open to the public should be accessible to all. Detailed guidance is set out in the Council’s “Access for the Disabled” supplementary planning guidance.
- New shop fronts should accommodate the needs of disabled persons and others with impaired mobility.
- As a general principle, steps should be avoided and doors be made wide enough and capable of being opened by people in wheel chairs.
- Frameless glass doors within extensive areas of glazing should be avoided as they cause difficulties for the partially sighted
11. Shop Front Security
External solid metal shutters will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances, having regard, inter alia, to the types of goods sold/displayed, but equally having regard to the potentially detrimental and deadening effect of such shutters on the character and appearance of the area.
- The following are recommended as alternatives in order of preference:
- i) Laminated security glass – this will not change the appearance of the shop front.
- ii) Internal grilles – these can be fitted discreetly behind the shop window, are retractable or removable and would (in any event) not normally require consent, as is the case of i) above.
- iii) External mesh grilles – if storage is available, removable grilles preclude the necessity for a box housing on the fascia and are preferable to roller grilles. This type of protection should allow a window display to be viewed without the necessity for internal lighting i.e. that the grille openings need to be of sufficient size, but it is important that the fixings and materials used are integrated into the design of the shop front. On Listed Buildings, permission will only be given if the grille does not detract from the special interest of the building and its shop front. Similarly, in Conservation Areas, planning permission will only be given where development will not detract from the character or appearance of both the shop front and the area as a whole.
Either as an alteration or an addition to the above, appropriately designed and located bollards which do not give rise to a highway obstruction should be considered.
- Attention to the finishing details of a shutter or grille can soften their impact and prevent the “raw” industrial image of galvanised steel.
- The finish must be durable. Appropriate treatments include powder coating and coloured anodised aluminium.
- Wherever possible, shutter/grille boxes and tracks should be recessed behind the fascia of the shop front or at least be removable during opening hours.
- As a general rule, when designing a new shop front, a sufficiently high and solid stall-riser is an efficient means of deterring or preventing ram raiders.
For further details see the Essex County Council booklet “Conservation in Essex No.5: Shop Fronts” and the English Historic Towns Forum booklets “Shop Fronts and Advertisements in Historic towns” and “Book of Details and Good Practice in Shop Front Design”