Best shops and best shopfronts


Sir, – One of the shared virtues of the shops featured in the “Best Shops in Ireland” feature (Magazine, August 25th), other than excellent customer service and distinctive produce, is the almost universal high quality of their shopfronts. Whether the delightful Victorian frontage of Lilliput Stores, or the immaculately presented Hickey’s Bakery in Clonmel, most fronts exhibit the basic rules of good shopfront design and presentation, based on restraint in signage, sophisticated use of colour, and a complete harmony with the upper floor facades of their buildings. It is remarkable how simple interventions displayed by these businesses have contributed so much to their respective towns and streets.

The art of good shopfront design across Ireland was made almost extinct during the boom years, with retailers clamouring over each other to shout loudest on the streetscape with over-scaled fascias, garish colours and signage plastered across upper-floor facades. Similarly, the scourge of ignorantly detailed reproduction frontages did a disservice to the design intuition of genuine historic shopfronts, while many contemporary models failed to accommodate signage adequately or relate to their wider host building.

The simple, classically informed vernacular architecture of most Irish towns demands a greater understanding by shop owners and a guiding hand on the part of planning authorities to maximise the potential of our commercial streets, especially in these recessionary times when supporting local trade is so important. This is also true of Dublin, where the main streets of the city, some of which have been experiencing a marked decline in quality presentation, could benefit enormously from greater shopfront design guidance as part of a city-wide initiative to improve the public face of the capital. – Yours, etc,


Dublin Civic Trust,

Castle Street,

Dublin 2.