Lamplight Books is a veritable page-turner

Wonder Group creative director Buster Caldwell filled us in on the fit-out of this new must-visit bookstore.

Hey Buster, what and where is Lamplight? It’s an independent bookstore in the award-winning Geyser Building in Auckland’s Parnell. The masterminds behind it are Melanie O’Loughlin and Courtney Smith, formerly of Unity Books. 

ABOVE Lamplight was born between lockdowns, when friends and ex-workmates Melanie and Courtney met for a drink to lament their best-laid, now-derailed life plans and concluded: why not open a store? Everyone’s welcome at their neighbourhood shop filled with a diverse but well-curated range of classic to contemporary reads — you can even bring along your dog.

What was your design intention for the store? Books are visually noisy, so we wanted to create those lovely little moments of respite you want from a book-browsing experience — an inward cosiness that shields you from bustling Parnell Rise outside and allows the books to sing. Blocky, utilitarian forms hold the books, but are broken down into smaller parts to lighten the visual weight through the use of simple, square tiles of varying sizes. Just like the book selection, the design qualities of this store are considered, confident and there to be quietly noticed. 

What was your thinking behind the colours? Melanie and Courtney are enthusiastic about colour, which gave us the freedom to apply a progressive approach, using it to demarcate the various zones of the store and position it as a new flavour within a traditionally stuffy category. Drawing from Bauhaus and Mondrian artworks, primary colours are set against one another to deliver a punchy result that complements, rather than clashes with, the books. To tie it all together, an inky hue wraps the walls, establishing an environment that feels genderless and premium, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

ABOVE Work by local artisans fills the store. Neil Welsford-Ackroyd of Metalwerks crafted the steel displays that line the walls; shopfitters Gartshore were behind the counter, tables and plinths; landscape designer Winston Dewhirst created concrete planters for the space; Blomfield Signs did the signage install; and the graphics and branding are by Ophelia King. The fit-out also features Mori pendant lights by RBW, sourced from Koda in Australia.

What else did you want the store to communicate? It’s a brave move to open a bookstore in this day and age, so we thought, ‘If you’re taking that risk and doing it, let’s have some fun and give people a reason to visit beyond the books themselves’. Essentially, we wanted customers to understand that this place is very special. The books are special, the people are delightful and the interior needed to reflect that. I like to think it gives you the feeling you’re about to discover something just for you that you might not find anywhere else.

Words Philippa Prentice
Photography Abi Phillips

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